It's finally fight week. Potentially the biggest boxing match in history is just days away. As a fight fan, I've really grown tired of the coverage dedicated to the McGregor vs. Mayweather bout. A day doesn't go by without another nonsensical opinion or rumour relating to the fight. This fight has truly set a new standard for the click-bait industry.
It really is a strange situation for me personally. I love watching fights, I love trying to break them down in my head. But I'm almost looking forward to August 27th (so we can move away from this circus), as much as I'm intrigued by what will take place in the T-Mobile Arena on August 26th. There has been some awful coverage (step up Skip Bayless) and some excellent analysis. One of the best breakdowns I've seen is Luke Thomas' Monday Morning Analyst preview for the fight.
Notorious For A Reason
Make no mistake, the biggest attraction in this fight is Conor McGregor. The man from Dublin has had a meteoric rise in the combat sports world. It's hard to fathom that this is really happening. McGregor was famously collecting social welfare when he first set foot in the UFC Octagon. Now, just under five years later he's the biggest name in MMA and he's about to potentially make $100 million for thirty six minutes or less of work in a boxing ring.
It's ironic that the “gentlemens sport”, requires it's biggest draw to come out of retirement, to grab the headlines facing a man who is 0-0 inside the ring. This is not boxing versus MMA. For all the talk of boxing vs. MMA; it's nothing more than clever marketing. There's nothing outside of the norm rules-wise for this fight bar the use of 8oz. gloves; instead of the 10.0z gloves usually associated with a 154lbs boxing match.
“I don’t know if Conor McGregor will even land a punch on Floyd Mayweather, and I say that in all sincerity.” — Jason Whitlock
Posted by Speak For Yourself on Monday, 21 August 2017
There is so much talk that this is bad for MMA and McGregor. I actually think the opposite of those lines, nobody will be shocked if Floyd wins on Saturday. But that would be to miss the point. Conor McGregor is key to bringing in pay-per view purchases.
Floyd Mayweather could not achieve this with any current professional boxer. Conor achieved a buy rate for UFC 202 that was one million more buys than the highest boxing card of 2016 (Canelo vs. Khan with 600k buys). It reminds me of an almost prophetic statement Joe Rogan made about MMA vs. Boxing almost ten years ago.
“The famous people that you have right now; are the only famous people that are going to exist in the future for boxing.”- Joe Rogan Speaking in 2008.
There was so much in the way of this fight happening. Even before we talk about the sporting aspect. From the business side, there were contracts and stipulations that had to be met to satisfy Mayweather. There was also a need to balance the interests of WME-IMG who own the MMA promotion McGregor currently is contracted to (that being the UFC).
It's the attention and rabid following that McGregor brings with him that's made this possible. It's not too long ago that the Nevada commission said they wouldn't approve the potential fight without evidence of McGregor's boxing skills; after rejecting Conor's intial request for a boxing licence. Bennet is on record at the time as saying the following about McGregor's boxing ambitions.
“Mr. McGregor is an incredibly gifted fighter and athlete. He obviously knows what he’s doing as a fighter and I have the utmost respect for his abilities…But it is a different sport.”
All that has changed; the executive director of the Nevada Athlethic Commission Bob Bennett explained on the MMA Hour why he believed the fight was merited and worth approval. That the fight was about more than money.
“I’m known as an executive director to be very conservative in approving fights, whether they MMA or boxing. I have a format that I go by that I had to deviate a little from. Because this is unprecedented. It is historic. Both these guys are phenomenal athletes. I took a real close look at Conor, because everybody knows Floyd. He’s 49-0, arguably the best defense in the history of boxing. Future Hall of Famer. Conor is a young warrior coming up.”
What's The Story With The Odds
As was to be expected Mayweather opened as a massive favourite. With some bookmakers he was as high as 1/20, the line on McGregor was anywhere between 10/1 and 12/1 with sportsbooks and has dropped significantly. There are estimates that 95% of bets and 85% of the money related to those bets have been made on McGregor.
“This guy is an anomaly for a million different reasons… and that's before we talk about his personality.”- Peter “Petesy” Carroll
You may ask yourself why this could be happening? For the answer I turn to a man that's been as close as anyone gets to the McGregor camp without lacing up a pair of gloves. Irish MMA journalist Petesy Carroll so aptly said when discussing the fight on a recent episode of What's The Story Podcast. It's hard to count Conor out given his history. One of the most staggering things Petesy discussed was Conor literally willing a knee injury to heal before UFC 189 (where McGregor claimed the interim UFC featherweight championship).
“i can't factor out a guy who can will himself through an injury that nobody else would have fought on. I can't bet against a guy who's constantly proven people wrong since 2011. I can't bet against a fella, that every person in that camp isn't lying to me when they tell me he's going to do this. Whether that's true or not, they completely believe it… i've been interviewing these guys for years and i know when they're selling me wolf tickets!”
Why It Is Important To Move On After August 26th
You can call this a “money fight”, a “freak-show”. It is still a fight. Maybe it's not exactly what you would expect from a normal boxing match. It's fair to see it as different, it's a spectacle. No matter your opinion; there's no getting away from this being a historic event.
What it illustrates to me is a crossover point in combat sports. This fight in a way is everything that is wrong with boxing. The value of a fight outweighs the potential competition in most instances. You rarely see the two best fighters in a weight division fight each other.
We're a few short months removed from the greatest heavyweight title fight in recent memory (Klitschko vs. Joshua). We're a few short weeks from GGG vs. Canelo but all eyes are on a boxing match involving a guy who has never stepped into a boxing ring as a professional. They're on an MMA fighter.
MMA has been built on the basis that you regularly see the best compete with the best. This may be where the Ali Act has hurt boxing most; as there is so much power in the promoter's hands. They realised the value of the belt over meaningful competition when negotiating contracts. WME-IMG should remember the point about quality of competition; MMA buy rates have dropped since they took over from the Fertitta brothers. The business was built on competition, not spectacle.
Will Conor McGregor create another piece of history? I'm as intrigued as anyone; but come Sunday morning I'm ready to move on and I hope everyone else is too. I sincerely hope this fight doesn't open the floodgates to more cross-over bouts, unless they're under MMA rules. I think anything else would be awful for both sports. We'll find out soon.
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