Photo by Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
A lot happened in the sport of boxing this past weekend. Leo Santa Cruz outworked Carl Frampton in a barnburner of a fight, Miguel Berchelt gave a FOTY performance in dethroning former super-featherweight champ Francisco Vargas, and in Montreal a near riot broke out after Brandon Cook TKO’d Steven Butler. But perhaps the news that draws the most interest of fans actually happened outside the ring when comments regarding the ongoing potential of a Mayweather vs. McGregor superbout were traded between the two stars.
“Most likely the fight between me and Conor McGregor will happen,” Mayweather told SkySports ringside Saturday night at the MGM Grand. “That’s the only fight that will get me back in the ring. He’s going to do a job on his side and we are going to do a job on my side and hopefully all the fans in the UK come over and support me.”
That same day, McGregor sat down with MMA journalist Ariel Helwani for a PPV event titled “An Experience with ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor,” where the Irishman answered a number of audience questions regarding his life and the future of his fighting career. Of course questions surrounding the fight with Mayweather eventually surfaced.
“That fight is being more than explored. That fight has been in the works for a while now,” McGregor said. “There’s a lot of steps to get through to get the fight done, but it’s the fight to make. It’s the fight that people want. It’s the fight that I want.”
Helwani followed up with discussing the many obstacles facing the bout, particularly McGregor’s contractual obligations with the UFC. The fighter responded by saying that while he believes it to be “smoother” to have all parties involved, he also thinks he could make the fight happen with or without the blessing of the UFC. McGregor gave further allusions of extending the jurisdiction of his boxing eligibility by applying for a license in Nevada, since Mayweather has competed in the state for his last 14 fights.
“I think we’re all about good business. I’ve done great business with the UFC and Dana. I think it’s smoother we’re all involved, but again, everyone got to know their place, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said McGregor. When asked what he meant by, “everyone knowing their place”, McGregor had this to say:
“There’s Mayweather Promotions, there’s the UFC and then there’s the newly formed McGregor Promotions, and we’re all in the mix, so that’s what I’m saying,” McGregor replied. “Nobody is my boss.”
Soon after the interview, UFC President Dana White had a different view on the matter, Tweeting some choice words for the fighter per MMAFighting.com, saying there was “as much of a chance of McGregor-Mayweather happening as [him] being the backup for Tom Brady,” and that “if McGregor wants to go down that road with us, it’ll be an epic fall.”
What may now be emerging are the beginnings of a showdown between fighter and promoter, which could be as interesting as the fight itself since it clues into the question of how much autonomy UFC fighters have under their banner. During the interview, McGregor cited the example of other stars in the promotion participating in jiu jitsu tournaments as a precedence for his right to move into the squared circle, and when you really think about it, how much control should the UFC have over what their fighters do outside of the cage? In some ways, White is essentially trying to control McGregor’s corporeal assets.
This is actually something Floyd Mayweather is very familiar with. He was one of the first boxers to flip the promotional model on its head by having the fighter being the one at the front dictating terms, yet still managing to generate the highest grossing PPVs in the sport’s history. Now, this has both its benefits and consequences to the sport, but either way the growing tension between McGregor and White as negotiations continue is something worth looking at. As for who would be the promotional “A-side” of the fight, McGregor replied in expected fashion.
“He’s the scared side,” McGregor quipped. “Let’s be honest. He’s not trying to have a real fight. He needs rules to protect him. I don’t need rules. So he can say he’s this or that, but in reality, he’s scared shitless.”
When Mayweather was relayed the message later that night in an interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray, the former champ laughed it off and gave a much more diplomatic response.
“Well, we’ll just see. We know I’m the A-side. It shows throughout the years (with) so many record-breaking numbers that we have done, me and my team. Hopefully, we can make the fight happen,” Mayweather said. “The fans have been asking for this fight. It’s all about entertainment. He’s very entertaining. He’s very outspoken like myself, so let’s give the fans what they want to see.”
Based on the words and attitudes between the two, what also seems to be emerging is that Mayweather appears more interested in making the fight into an event, while McGregor (though certainly concerned about the paycheck) may be more interested in it being an actual fight. When asked about his fighting chances against the boxing legend, McGregor was confident to say the least.
“I’m confident going in there. I’ve got the reach, I’ve got the youth, I’ve got the confidence. I’ve got the unpredictable style. You can’t prepare for a style like me,” said McGregor. “Look, fuck the UFC, fuck the MMA, fuck boxing, fuck sports fighting. Let’s just say we fight. It’d be the easiest fight ever.”
“My fist is bigger than his head,” McGregor continued. “Seriously. He’s a Maltese with eyeballs. I know every single shot he’s been hit with. I know every single shot he’s been hurt with. I know southpaws have caused him a hell of a lot of trouble. I know everything. Trust me. I don’t care what rule-set it’s under. Most people don’t know shit about fighting. I’m gonna teach him about true fighting and that’s it.”
There are still a number of obstacles in making this fight a reality, and in all likelihood, they will prove to be too great to overcome. But at the very least, it seems that a fighter’s willingness on either side is not one of them, and if enough demand from the fans gets put on top of that, who knows? Maybe other things will begin to give too.
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