In an interview with Esquire, The Notorious Conor McGregor called Floyd Money Mayweather’s bluff publically, for the first time. “I don’t look at a man who’s expert in one area as a specialist, I look at him as a rookie in ten other areas” He criticised, “If you put me face-to-face with Floyd Mayweather—pound-for-pound boxing’s best, I would kill him in less than thirty seconds”.
His comments were made 2 months before the megafight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The bout between two of boxing’s best fighters had been in the works for years, naturally it had the world at a stand still and everyone wanted to pick a side and take turns to guess the final result. Strangely, McGregor instead chose to weigh himself up against Floyd, something that sparked some excitement amongst his fans. The fight would go on to become the biggest event in sporting history, dubbed the $300 million fight, one that pulled in a record of 4.6 million PPV buys worldwide.
Floyd battling Pacquiao in their record breaking fight
McGregor’s comments though, came in the context of a UFC octagon match up between himself and Floyd, a place where he’d made a name as the cocky underdog, the bad boy archetype that feared no one and called his fights with clairvoyant-like accuracy. Few would’ve argued against McGregor, as boxers fight within just one discipline. Mixed martial artists are, well, mixed martial artists. The octagon is where fighters use multiple disciplines to beat each other senseless for 3-5 rounds, so of course, Conor would surely have the upper hand there.
Despite the disadvantage, some boxers have tried to cross over to MMA before. Most notably when, boxing’s triple weight champion, James Toney stepped in to the octagon to settle his beef with UFC hall of famer Randy Couture, at UFC 118 in 2010. To nobody’s surprise, Toney was on his feet for just 15 seconds before being taken down by Couture, who proceeded to the pound the yam out of Toney for 2 minutes. Toney was eventually choked to the point of near unconsciousness by Couture, who claimed the submission victory within the first round. Even though every fight starts standing, boxers didn’t tend to do well out side of their element.
Despite calling his name, a fight between McGregor and Mayweather was a long shot. At the time it was more more of a boastful “F*ck the world” type statement that the fans were accustomed to hearing from him, there was no way they’d fight each other, let alone in an octagon.
Couture overwhelms Toney at UFC 118
2 months later, in the aftermath of Mayweather’s tactical victory over Manny, Conor was once more calling Floyd out. “Who wouldn’t want to dance in the ring with Floyd for $180 million?” He asked on the Conan show, “there’s no real fights for him in boxing after the Manny fight, if you want to generate buzz it has to be across different styles.”
Though precise, few would’ve thought the mouthy Irishman would be speaking things into existence. Floyd was an undefeated world champion, boxing’s pound-for-pound best, coming off of the biggest pay-day in sporting history. He was paying Conor’s annual wages in monthly taxes, the comments were of little relevance to Floyd, considering his superstar status. Nevertheless, speculation continued but this time, it sounded like Conor was instead offering to step into Floyd’s element, a boxing ring, to face him.
Floyd had went on to ease past Andre Berto before deciding to hang up his boxing gloves 3 months prior to the December of 2015. In an illustrious career that saw him win 15 world titles across 5 weightclasses, 38 year old Floyd Mayweather left the sport unbeaten with a 49-0 record in 19 years of professional boxing and an estimated $800 million in career earnings.
Floyd Mayweather bows out on top after his last fight
Conor was working his way up to becoming the biggest star of the UFC. After surgically dismantling Chad Mendes, he was set to face the pound-for-pound best MMA fighter in the world, Jose Aldo, for the featherweight championship at UFC 194 . “Va morrer” (roughly translating to “you’re going to die” in Portugese) Conor prophetically whispered to Brazilian born Aldo during a Rio de Janeiro media face off before the fight. Aldo, who had been unbeaten in 10 years stepped in to defend his pride and his country and was out cold 13 seconds later from a straight left. Conor claimed the belt by a first round KO victory, shocking everyone except himself. He became a star and at the time, seemed untouchable.
McGregor stuns Aldo at UFC 194
Just 8 months into Floyd’s luxurious life of retirement, rumours were floating in the fighting world about a match up between himself and McGregor, to which he finally decided to responded. His first comments were dismissive but baiting, ridiculing the comparison between himself and Conor, given what he had achieved in his respected sport. Conor was big, but not $100 Million payday big. Surprisingly though, when pressed further about the rumours of a matchup, not only did Floyd confess to have started them, he teased “It’s possible. There was a name that was shot at me. Keep your fingers crossed, there may be a boxer vs an MMA fighter.”
Though retired, Floyd’s comments were an instance of him holding meat (pause) in front of a hungry dog, in Conor McGregor. At the time McGregor was, surprisingly, facing a rough patch in his career. He was preparing for a rematch against MMA veteran and fellow sh*t talker Nate Diaz, the man who’d handed him his first loss in the UFC octagon 2 months prior, at UFC 196.
A frustrated McGregor was looking to bounce back and demand his worth from the UFC, having repeatedly headlined fight cards that smashed PPV records for the company. He’d threatened retirement via a tweet and, for the first time, UFC fans were seeing of the biggest name in the organisation calling out the billion dollar company. He was the money fight in the UFC. Fighters were going from 5, to 6 and 7 figure paydays by facing off against McGregor. He was making millions every fight, but he wasn’t anywhere near a Floyd boxing bout type paycheque. Floyd had made over $30 million in his retirement bout and his opponent, Andre Berto, had made around $4 million. In comparison, McGregor had only managed to taken in just over $1 million in the his previous loss against Diaz.
McGregor surprisingly calls it quits via twitter
Floyd saw this and played on McGregor’s ego, jokingly offering McGregor $7 million off a fight that he’d take $100 million from. Conor rubbished Floyd’s valuation and, in response, claimed that he also deserved $100 million. “That’s a paycut to me, I don’t take paycuts. I thought boxing was where the money was at?” His onslaught continued, “He’s getting old now, I have the size I have the reach, I have the youth. He needs me, I don’t need him.” Conor’s ballsy response came in the build up to his biggest PPV fight to date, the Nate Diaz rematch.
McGregor’s desire to punch the cash out of Floyd’s pockets was fuelled further after his victory against Diaz at UFC 202 the August of 2016. A 5 round war on a card that once again smashed UFC PPV records. But Floyd, at the at the time, admitted he didn’t watch the fight, distancing himself from comparisons between his own and Conor’s achievements in combat sports.
McGregor finally overcomes Diaz in their rematch at UFC 202
In a press conference promoting his upcoming fight against UFC 205’s lightweight title belt holder Eddie Alvarez, McGregor in a typically braggadocios fashion, dismissed not only the threat of his opponent but of every single fighter in the UFC. “I don’t know what anyone else has for me up here” he said, “I might have to jump up and drag f**king Floyd Mayweather out of bed and see what the f**k he’s at again“ reigniting the fleeting possibility of the cross over fight. It was evident that Conor wanted both the fight and the massive potential payday, regardless of his UFC contract. At this point it felt like his name had almost outgrown MMA. Nothing would excite his as much as a boxing cross over against Mayweather, but a loss against Alvarez would surely wipe away any possibility of it happening.
Still, they went back and forth in interviews. Floyd emphasised ownership over his own promotion, suggesting Conor needed to “speak to his boss (Dana White, president of the UFC) and ask for permission” before he’d be able to fight him. While there was truth in Floyd’s words due to Conor’s obligations to the UFC, McGregor saw this as Floyd ducking his offer telling him to “get me my money” and he’d box. “Floyd doesn’t want to fight, he wants a match under a specific set of rules, I don’t need rules.” he claimed.
Dana White, however went on to deny the Mayweather fight was going to take place a month later, “it’s not happening” he told a TMZ reporter, “They both seem to want the fight but Conor’s under contract with me.” Dana’s comment added to Conor’s frustration. At this point it seemed like McGregor would shift his focus away from the Floyd fight and onto becoming the UFC’s first double weight champion, in the featherweight and lightweight divisions. The fans were still keen on the Floyd match up, but it seemed like it was dead once and for all.
McGregor was a win away from a lightweight championship, one that would see him become the double weight champion. Given Floyd’s retirement from boxing, Conor was on track to become the biggest name in combat sports. He had an untouchable swagger, lived a wealthy lifestyle far beyond that of most fighters on the UFC roster and was most importantly an incredible athlete, putting on some of the most exciting fights the fans had seen. Ironically, Conor was showing much of the traits of a younger Mayweather during his “pretty boy Floyd” era. Floyd and his fans knew it, but they couldn’t stop the hype that was gathering around Conor.
With one eye on Floyd, McGregor laid his chips on the table and predicted a KO victory over Alvarez within the first 2 rounds of the fight. Fight night came and with all eyes on him once again, Conor stepped into the octagon and did exactly that, picking Eddie apart with ease to claim a TKO victory in the second round of the fight. With another belt in a new division Conor made UFC history and became the biggest name in across the active fighting world. Not only was he on track to become the highest paid fighter in the UFC, he was now in a perfect position to negotiate a cross over. In two 5 minute rounds, he’d reached the superstar status.
McGregor posing with his two belts after UFC 205
But with his girlfriend scheduled to deliver a mini McGregor in 2017, Conor was granted leave from the UFC. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to plan the fight that Dana White, now warming to the idea knowing how big Conor is, had previously written off. Conor was at the top of the game, his name was on everyone’s lips. Floyd, Dana and Conor himself were all too aware that there was money to be made.
With the fighting world somewhat subdued, the talk of the possibilities of a Mayweather vs. McGregor fight seemed to fade. No news from Conor as he was still absent from fighting waiting on the birth of MiniMac. In an interview with ESPN Floyd sensed his last money fight slipping away from his 40 year old grip, and made a last ditch attempt to draw out McGregor, “You said you were boss, just sign the paper and let’s make it happen.” he urged.
2 months later and after the birth of his son, the papers were signed and Conor was scheduled to challenge Floyd in the ring at last, on August 26th, 2017.
The reality of what’s said to become the biggest event in fighting history, predicted to beat the Mayweather/Pacquaio fight, was cemented into existence at long last. The fight was finally happening and the world was speaking about it. McGregor’s balls of steel had shot him to international fame and he was stepping into a professional boxing ring, for the first time in his career, with an 0-0 record against the pound-for-pound greatest boxer in the world, the 49-0, Floyd Mayweather.
McGregor, never afraid of the big stage stepped into the press conferences oozing confidence with shouts of “f**k floyd” and countless other insults to the excitement of the fans. With Dana White as his hype man, Conor had brought his persona, so famously known in MMA, over to the world of boxing. As he so routinely does against other opponents, he attempted to steal the show and get under the Floyd’s skin. “You b*tch” he insulted “i’ll knock you out in your own game.”
Mayweather, who seemed partly surprised at Conor’s act, came off as composed yet excited at the magnitude of the occasion. The boo’s from the crowd didn’t phase him. Though Conor had an army of fans, Floyd wasn’t the underdog, he just wasn’t as likeable, but it didn’t matter to him. He called Conor out on the big stage for stealing his blueprint, thanked Dana White routinely for finally putting this fight together and, in typical show boy fashion, showered McGregor with money at one point whilst referring to him as a stripper. He seemed at ease to the show Conor tried to put on, and although he had a few words of respect, to him this would be a walk in the park. Conor, for the first time in his career, showed a brief glimpse of vulnerability in the build up to a fight.
McGregor squares up against Mayweather
August 2017: Fight Month
After all the rumours and fan hype, MMA superstar Conor McGregor will finally face off against boxing legend Floyd Mayweather in the ring. At face value he is out of his depth, and most of the respected voices in combat sports, who aren’t being prompted by the UFC to back their star man, believe so too.
Floyd Mayweather has, throughout his career, proved his defence to be impregnable, a master in his elusive counter fighting style. But this time, with almost a point to prove against the disrespectful Irishman, he has vowed to push forward aggressively looking for the knockout. “Mark my words, this fight won’t go the distance” he promised. It looks as if he wants to leave the boxing game in spectacular fashion, by flattening the fan favourite in what will surely be a 9 figure payday. Floyd wants to make it 50-0, surpassing Rocky Marciano’s record, becoming the billion dollar boxer and silencing the world once more.
Conor McGregor, as he most famously says it “isn’t here to take part, he’s here to take over.” In a most prophetic manner, he had called an outcome of this fight over 2 years ago and, as he’s known for, wants to go out and make it happen. If he wins, he would have earned the respect of every critic who’d ever doubted him or his guts, even Floyd’s. It’s the hardest task he’s ever faced and if he fails, it will seem as though the luck of the Irish has finally run out. Conor will return to the UFC 9 figures richer, but with a roster of fighters waiting to get their shot at the man who so confidently dismissed their threat.
This will be the biggest payday of his life and an admirable climb to the top of the sports game regardless but it seems, to most logical audiences, that by calling out Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor may just have bitten off more than he can chew. He has called out one of the best to ever do it and he’ll most likely be in danger every second of the fight if, this time, he fails to back up his words.
Mayweather poses along side McGregor at their pre-fight weigh in
Conor will start off sharp and aggressive, showing signs of victory in the opening rounds, but his gas tank will fade, Floyd will ease into his game and stop him before the 6th round.
How to watch
The fight, expected to start after 4am BST, is being shown on Sky Box Office in the UK. It will cost viewers £19.95 or €24.95 for Republic of Ireland customers.
Virgin TV customers (with a TiVo® or Virgin TV V6 box) can also see the whole thing on Sky Sports Box Office. It costs £19.95 for SD and £20.95 for HD.