This world tour of Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor has been just what Dana White (President of the UFC) so elegantly said, “It’s going to be a (expletive) (expletive) show. Absolute (expletive) show. So, I don’t know. It’s going to be crazy.” From the constant barrage of vulgar language, racial undertones, supposedly clever wit, tax jokes, and hubris it has been a (expletive) show. No one should be surprised. If you follow either of these fighters you know how they behave. It’s for show, you have tickets to sell, PPV to think about, but this time the promotion has been amped up. But how did these two unlikely foes intersect. They seem perfect for each other, from the shirtless muscle flexing to the throwing of dollar bills, they were made to promote this fight and each other. Mayweather and McGregor share a few threads – they both grew up hard, they both talk a lot of trash, and they were born for this moment; a billion dollar fight.
Before these two, a fight like this couldn’t have happened. It just couldn’t have or at least with any significance. The UFC wasn’t even close to the brand it is today. Before they grew up (and then grew up even more recently) it was viewed as barbaric and not worthy of serious consideration as a sport. While the breaking of arms hasn’t gone away, the UFC have found broadcasting partners and a fanatic worldwide audience that is thirsting for an icon. Far from the early days where no protection was worn and fighters could kick opponents in the head while they were on the ground. Now they have gloves, mouth pieces, trainers, etc. Enter McGregor, who took advantage of the vacuum to be filled with his quick wit, charismatic personality, thirst for the spotlight, and equally important his ability to deliver entertaining fights. In his relatively short career and professional experience, he has risen to stardom akin to Ronda Rousey. In just five fights he has taken over the fighting world and forced himself into a purse of over $100MM with Mayweather, which all started with a statement.
In 2015, McGregor did a story with Esquire. He was talking about specializing in aspects of fighting, or to be known for a specific skill set (like striking), and how he wanted to avoid that. To further explain his logic for wanting to have multiple facets to his repertoire he pointed to Mayweather.
From the article: “I don’t look at a man who’s expert in one area as a specialist,” he says. “I look at him as a rookie in ten other areas. If you can box, what happens if I grab hold of your legs? If you put me face-to-face with Floyd Mayweather—pound-for-pound boxing’s best—if I fought Floyd, I would kill him in less than thirty seconds. It would take me less than thirty seconds to wrap around him like a boa constrictor and strangle him.”
And so, the stage was set. The thin skin of Mayweather was broken, but perhaps greater than the bruised ego was the chance to cash in on serious dough. The other vacuum…
Boxing has been dying for years. Simply put, without a true heavyweight to capture a worldwide audience the sport has decayed. All of that bleak and darkness didn’t affect Floyd “Money” Mayweather, who created his own promotion company, cutting out the would-be blood sucking Don Kings or Bob Arum’s. He saw the largest purses every recorded for a fighter. His 2015 purse from the bout with Manny Pacquiao was at least $220MM, the highest of any fighter, ever. Mayweather holds the #2 and #3 spot as well. If anyone could pull of a cross over fight, it would be Mayweather. The money just had to be right.
Speaking of money, the UFC has never even sniffed the type of numbers at the top of the pile that boxing has. The most McGregor ever made in a fight was upwards of $3MM. McGregor had every incentive to take the fight.
There are plenty of opinions out there on who will win this fight and why, but past this fight there are a lot of question for both futures of these sports. Timing is everything in fighting and this spectacle of Mayweather v McGregor couldn’t have come at more interesting time. The UFC has just seen an infusion of cash and are looking to go even more mainstream. However, they are still in a rocky position and have a lot to prove. On the other hand, the boxing world has been gasping air and haven’t found any real big wins. Fans of boxing hope this is just a rope-a-dope and the sport will launch back into the fight after catching up on some rest.
This fight though… it’s going to be a show, one way or the other.