It’s crazy to see how far Conor McGregor has come in four years. In 2013 he had yet to debut in the UFC and was as broke as it gets. In less than three months McGregor will headline what could be the biggest fight in combat sports history …. For the biggest check of his career …. And it just happens to be against the best boxer of his generation in a boxing match, hosted in the fight capitol of the world.
What a world we live in, no?
The key to this fight will be managing our expectation going in. McGregor and Mayweather have some of the loudest fans out there, sometimes to their detriment, and any discussion of this fight will somehow devolve into the cliched, tired and busted “MMA vs Boxing” argument that has stunk up forums and radio airwaves for over a decade.
How do we do so? We have to manage how we look at the fight, and how Conor can “win,” in realistic terms. There are five things to consider when we delve deeply into the biggest fight of 2017.
This is Floyd’s Turf … and he’ll make Conor step on it on his terms and no others
Every advantage Conor could have coming in is going to be nullified by Floyd and his team. He nearly pulled out of the Maidana fight over the gloves to be used by his opponent, after all, and you can rest assure that Floyd is going to fight in as big of glove (and make Conor do so as well) as possible. The Irishman’s vaunted knockout power is going to muffled as much as possible by Floyd.
Expect there to be potentially some controversy the week of the fight as well over the gloves; Floyd’s camp is going to do everything to make this a matter of skill and eliminate the fluke knockout from being a potential fight finisher. There’s a reason why this is a strict boxing match, essentially forcing McGregor onto Floyd’s turf, and not any sort of hybrid style fight between the two. The only concession from Floyd, it seems, is that the bout is at 154 pounds (junior middleweight in boxing, a pound below lightweight in MMA).
Floyd, who hasn’t cut weight for a fight in a long time, won’t be doing so for this and Conor will be cutting down from his walking weight of around 170 for it. Floyd walks around 152, sometimes lighter, and one wonders if part of the negotiations was taking 147 off the table and keeping a murderous cut for the Irishman in check. Conor is still going to be cutting weight … but seeing him on the scale at 145 in MMA wouldn’t be that different than 147 for a boxing match.
Fighting at 154 means Floyd doesn’t worry about weight and Conor goes a pound below what he did for UFC 205 against Eddie Alvarez. Outside of the weight class concession, everything else is in Floyd’s favor. This will also matter more later on, too.
How Conor loses matters
You know what would be the most humiliating thing for Conor to do? Go out and be definitively, profoundly and massively outboxed for 12 rounds. For McGregor to win he has to change the goals of what victory means for him. While it would be amazing if McGregor manages to switch sports, and in the process destroy the greatest fighter alive … it probably isn’t in the cards.
What is? Taking at least three rounds off Mayweather. That’s a massive win for the multiple weight class MMA champ and something that’s not out of bounds for what he COULD accomplish.
Anything less than a 12-round domination by Mayweather moves the goalposts more in Conor’s direction. McGregor has the puncher’s chance, of course, but him fighting as well as Canelo Alvarez did against Floyd is about the ceiling for what you can expect from McGregor. He has the physical tools, and if he’d spent his career boxing instead of being a cage fighter (or at least 3-5 years boxing professionally) this could be a closer fight than the blowout it’s going to be.
And don’t kid yourself; Conor is probably going to be tooled in a way he’s never been tooled before. Making it a respectable fight, especially early, will matter more than we think.
Boxing press conferences are pretty easy to watch. Both sides have their extended entourages give speeches, everyone has a good time and the occasional bad word. It’s a dignified affair at the highest levels as God (and Al Haymon) is thanked and we’re set up for a big fight.
McGregor fights, on the other hand, kind of highlight the sort of ghoulish carnival MMA genuinely is. And it’s also Conor’s best shot at rattling Mayweather. This matters more than we think.
Part of what has made McGregor a great fighter is that he’s managed to get guys with track records of being calm, cool and collected to lose their minds. It’s what makes him so fascinating during the entire fight process; Conor’s ability to trash talk is exceptional and look for Mayweather to limit the amount of interactions he and McGregor will have because of this.
Floyd has fought trash talkers before … but none like Conor. While I don’t expect Floyd to lose his calm, or fight out of his style because he’s so angry, it’s something to watch for. At a minimum the one press conference between the two will be an amazing mix of boxing elegance and tradition with the hilarious shenanigans that accompany Conor McGregor on stage.
Managing a realistic expectation of skill
Despite being a domestic abusing scumbag of a human being, the one thing Floyd Mayweather is above all is obsessed with boxing. He’s always in shape, year-round, and taking a fight on what amounts to two months’ notice could be two weeks or two hours’ notice. He’s a terrible human being but when it comes to his profession he sets a standard few can hold a candle to.
So, if you’re expecting Floyd to take McGregor lightly … you can stop right there. Floyd is obsessed with a lot of things in life: money and fame being two of the biggest ones. But what is he obsessed with more?
There’s a reason why Floyd is taking this fight instead of ones that could’ve been more interesting. Canelo Alvarez in a rematch would be interesting, as Canelo has improved since their first bout and a rematch would be compelling. A rematch with Manny Pacquiao gives you at least a sellable angle after Manny’s injuries came out. A move up to middleweight against Golovkin would’ve been unexpected but give Floyd a chance to see if he can outlast the murderous Kazakhstani.
All of those fights are interesting, engaging, money-making fights for Floyd. They all represent a risk to that perfect 49-0 record, too, and Mayweather didn’t want to come back to fight any of them. Or anyone else at welterweight or junior middleweight, either. There’s a reason why he fought Manny almost a decade after their primes and why he chose certain fights at certain times.
Floyd has managed risk getting into the cage about as well as he’s fought inside it. He’s delivered when he’s had to, of course, but Floyd doesn’t sign for a fight unless it’s the best for him and his checkbook.
Floyd is an amazing, exceptional boxer … and also one who has found the perfect time for nearly every fight in his career. Why does a novice boxer without a professional record appeal to him so much? Because this will be the easiest path to $100 million and a 50th win on the books.
This isn’t a fight … it’s a spectacle
More people will care about this fight than they will about any MMA or boxing fight for the year. I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.