Take a moment and think back to your childhood. More specifically, try to remember your birthday and how you wanted that new gaming system or seasonal toy or whatever it was that you really, really had to have. You dropped not-so-subtle hints. You made comments about other kids with the same toy. You probably even flat-out asked for it. Take a moment to reminisce.
It’s all coming back to you, right? That sleepless night prior to the big day. Counting down the moments till you were able to see the sun come up and knew it was time. The emotions ran through your brain and endorphins raged as you tore through each gift, secretly searching for the one that really mattered. There it was, the last gift, just waiting for your hands to tear through the thin paper. Everyone watched eagerly as you opened it and realized one of two things: It was either exactly what you wanted or not what you wanted at all.
If it was the second outcome, the feelings were to be expected. Anger. Disappointment. Sadness. But what if it was what you had been asking for? Then, there was an overwhelming feeling of excitement and satisfaction. You played with that toy every day. Any chance that you could get, it was on your mind and nothing else mattered.
After a little while, though, the desire and need to play with the toy was gone. Something else new came along and replaced it, or you just realized that after months, maybe longer, of wanting it, it wasn’t anywhere near as great as you thought it would be.
This is what we have with Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
This type of child’s birthday experience is similar to what fans are probably going through with the recently announced “boxing” — yes, I’m putting that in quotes — match between McGregor and Mayweather. It’s finally official, and yet, the previous analogy seems to fit. This is a match that has been long rumored and shot down left and right by the UFC and just about everyone else.
Then, it happened. The announcement came from McGregor, Mayweather and even UFC President Dana White himself. The date? Aug. 26. The weight? 154 pounds. The world exploded.
McGregor is going to make more money from this one fight than the entire UFC roster in its history combined. Don’t believe it? Take a look at the fact that he is the first MMA fighter to make it into the Forbes list of 100 highest paid athletes. In 2016, he barely made it onto the list at No. 85 with $22 million, but he is now listed in a tie for 24th in 2017 with an incredible $34 million. Chuck Liddell. Ronda Rousey. Brock Lesnar. Add up the career earnings of these three fighters and it still doesn’t even come close to matching what McGregor has pocketed. Remember, too, these are just the disclosed earnings, not anything he has received behind closed doors.
The buzz around the world is that this fight is supposed to be a beacon shining a light on MMA and bring boxing fans over to the sport. To quote White, “Listen, if McGregor knocks him out, he’ll be the biggest star in sports, ever,” per Damon Martin of Fox Sports.
The boxing match pits the current UFC lightweight champion against a semi-retired, undefeated boxer, plain and simple. It’s going to provide us with the answer to who the greater athlete is — except we’re talking about two different sports. MMA has the word “mixed” in it for a reason. It’s a collection of many different styles. It’s evolution has come leaps and bounds from the days of old when it was a clear-cut striker-vs.-grappler or style-vs.-style affair. This is a clear devolution from everything MMA has strived to improve upon.
To be blunt, this is a terrible idea. If McGregor wins, he stops Mayweather from collecting a 50th trophy and being able to say that he defeated a UFC champion. If Mayweather wins, he proves absolutely… nothing. Taking a look back at Mayweather’s previous payouts, these numbers come to light: $32 million against Miguel Cotto in May of 2012; $32 million against Robert Guerrero in May 2013; $41.5 million against Saul Alvarez in September 2013; $32 million against Marcos Maidana in May of 2014 and another $32 million against Maidana in September 2014; $230 million against Manny Pacquiao in May 2015; and $32 million against Andre Berto in September 2015. Do the math. That’s nearly a combined $500 million for seven bouts over the course of five years. Mayweather doesn’t need the money.
Maybe this would be easier to justify if McGregor had completely and utterly wiped out every viable contender in his own sport before making the jump to boxing. He hasn’t. Maybe it would make sense if he was doing this to shine a light on MMA. He isn’t. This is about money and fame, not about growing the sport of MMA. This is where McGregor is in the wrong.
This is going to set up a horrible trend. Other fighters are going to try to shoot for “money” fights outside of MMA. It isn’t going to draw fans to watch MMA. It’s going to draw them to whatever sport these athletes compete in. Whether it’s boxing or even soccer, the fan base will be going in completely the wrong direction.
If McGregor really cared about anyone other than himself, this fight would not be happening. He would focus instead on becoming the greatest fighter that ever lived. With the estimated payouts that could come from this, who knows if McGregor will actually ever come back to MMA. Why would he? If fighters could make this type of money in a sport outside of MMA, what is the driving force to keep them involved in the sport? McGregor will forfeit his title and his ridiculous claim that he can be called the greatest of all time in MMA, without ever defending a single one of his belts.
This recent fight announcement actually overshadows what’s happening in MMA, rather than casting a light upon it. Between now and Aug. 26, there are nine scheduled UFC events, including UFC 213, International Fight Week and, of course, the return of Jon Jones. Is anyone going to pay attention to most of these events anymore? The safe bet would be no. If the intended idea was to draw attention to MMA, this wasn’t the time or the way to do it. If anything, McGregor’s boxing outing against Mayweather should have been an end-of-the-year event. It would cap off 2017 and kick off 2018 with either a bang or a snooze (I’m going with the latter). It shouldn’t have been scheduled for the middle of the year, and especially not while the lightweight division is in a constant state of flux. Money really does make the world go ’round, though.
When it comes to the outcome, the real focus in this match will be on the fan reaction. People who have never watched a single boxing match their entire lives will more than likely pony up an easy hundred dollars for the pay-per-view in order to watch this “Connor McGregor guy” — yes, that was intentionally spelled wrong — take on “Money” Mayweather. Will it go the full 12 rounds? Probably. Will it end in the first? Not very likely, but stranger things have happened. Will McGregor be told not to leave it in the hands of the judges? An obvious homage to his roots in MMA and The Ultimate Fighter. But people are going to watch this. People who have never given boxing or MMA a chance will tune in, because this is what the world is talking about — two sports coming together, as flawed as that statement is, to prove which is superior. This is the only silver lining within this bout. Maybe it will draw new fans to watch MMA and boxing.
However, if these fans are going to start watching MMA to see McGregor compete inside the Octagon, it seems they are going to be as disappointed as their childhood selves, because odds are not in favor of McGregor ever returning to the UFC. It would seem more realistic that Art Jimmerson will come out of retirement and compete against Royce Gracie again, this time with two gloves. That’s all Jimmerson was: a kid who thought he got what he really wanted and realized shortly thereafter that sometimes what you want will only lead to tapping out of your MMA career after just one bout.