It's the 'fight of the century'. Boxing versus MMA, Old versus New, Floyd 'Money' Mayweather versus Conor 'The Notorious' McGregor. Nothing about it makes any goddamn sense whatsoever but it's happening and there's nothing anyone can do about that.
The only thing we can do now is prepare.
Welcome to the bluffer's guide to Mayweather vs McGregor.
What the hell is this fight about anyway?
Well it's all kind of silly, but let's unpack it a bit.
How And When To Watch The Conor McGregor Vs Floyd Mayweather Conference In Australia https://t.co/FWxtyqYTmd
— Lifehacker Australia (@LifehackerAU) July 11, 2017
It's essentially a boxing match between arguably the best defensive boxer that ever lived and Conor McGregor — the biggest star the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has ever produced. It's happening because a lot of people stand to make a lot of money. You combine the biggest draw in boxing with the biggest draw in mixed martial arts, you season it with a Boxing vs MMA narrative and you have a travelling circus that no-one can resist.
The high concept: boxing fans will watch, MMA fans will watch. Mainstream audiences with little interest in either will catch wind of the freak show and come along to gawk at the impending train wreck. Records will be broken. Money will be made. The fight, in a lot of ways, doesn't even matter.
Wait, Why Doesn't The Actual Fight Matter?
A couple of reasons.
First, and probably most important: Conor McGregor has literally never fought a professional boxing bout in his life. Floyd Mayweather is 49-0. He's never lost a fight as a professional fighter. On paper this is a huge mismatch and it's a little bit silly.
Second: Floyd is old. He's 40 years old and hasn't fought in a while. He might be the fighter he once was, but father time is undefeated.
Third: the stakes are pretty low, particularly for Conor. He can lose this fight and walk straight back to the UFC with his head held high. Boxing is completely different from MMA — the distances are different, the gloves are different, the angles are different. Practically everything is different. No-one in their right mind is really giving McGregor much of a chance. McGregor's stock will rise if he survives in there and Mayweather is after a piece of the biggest draw in combat sports.
TL;DR if you want to watch a pure boxing match, check out Canelo vs GGG. If you want to watch MMA at the highest level check out Cody Garbrandt vs TJ Dillashaw. Mayweather vs McGregor is something completely different from all that.
So Why Is Everyone So Excited?
So many reasons.
For mainstream audiences it's the circus angle. This fight is weird. For boxing aficionados it's another chance to watch Floyd Mayweather. For MMA fans it's... kinda annoying because it takes McGregor away from some truly compelling match-ups in the UFC, but still: we get to see our guy in a new environment, ripping shit up.
And boy will Conor Mcgregor rip shit up, but more on that later.
There's a lot at play here: old school versus new school. It's a generational battle in a sense. MMA; the cocky young upstart and boxing; the baby boomer with three investment property and an irrational hatred of avocados. This isn't just a fight, it's a cultural event.
There's the uncertainty of it all. There are likely outcomes (Floyd safely out-boxing McGregor in a boring, one-sided decision) but we just don't know what Conor will look like in a boxing ring. We know he has incredible power and reach. We know he has (almost certainly) the best boxing in MMA (for MMA specifically, which is different from regular boxing). Will that translate? Against a fighter who's been honing his skills since he was three-years-old? Who the hell knows.
Will Conor walk in there and knock Floyd out in the first round? Almost certainly not, but there's enough doubt there to make things compelling and no-one wants to miss out on what could be the defining sports moment of the 21st century.
And look, if anyone can do it, it's Conor McGregor.
Okay, So Why's This Conor McGregor Guy Such A Big Deal?
I mean where do you start?
Conor is equal parts Bruce Lee, Muhammad Ali and Ric Flair. Just over four years ago he was tugging the curtain at a nothing UFC show in Stockholm, Sweden. Today he holds every single revenue record in UFC history.
And he's also a record breaking fighter, the first to hold two belts in different weight classes in the UFC. For boxing fans, who are used to fighters like Manny Pacquiao holding belts in multiple weight classes, this might not seem like a big deal, but it is. Size matters in MMA. There are less weight divisions, four ounce gloves to contend with. Conor is the first to hold two titles simultaneously, and I can't see anyone with the skills or (crucially) the promotional pull to follow suit.
A quick history lesson: McGregor started as a Featherweight (145 pounds) and tore through that division, eventually beating its perennial kingpin Jose Aldo in 13 seconds. To this day it's one of the most batshit insane moments in UFC history. Aldo was (is) a precision striker with otherwordly takedown defence and razor sharp triggers. He was thought to be practically unbeatable, but McGregor broke him mentally and then physically with one left hand to the chin.
Then McGregor took the road less travelled. Instead of defending the title, McGregor immediately moved up in weight to fight Lightweight (155 pounds) champ Rafael Dos Anjos. After RDA pulled out with an injury he took a late-notice fight with Lightweight contender Nate Diaz at 170 pounds — 25 pounds above his regular weight class. He shockingly lost that fight, but won a close decision in a rematch later that year.
(Which highlights another reason he is so loved — by both fans and UFC management — McGregor is willing to fight at any weight and is unafraid of last minute fights or opponent changes. After Jose Aldo pulled out of their fight the first time, his coach woke him up to ask if he would fight Chad Mendes instead on two weeks notice. He reportedly rolled over, said, "they're all the same" and promptly fell back asleep.)
McGregor's best performance, however, came at UFC 205 when he completely outclassed then UFC Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in two rounds. It was mercurial. It was as close to a perfect performance as is possible in MMA. He became a two weight champ and the Floyd Mayweather chatter began in earnest.
McGregor is special. There are fighters who can talk like him (Chael Sonnen) and fighters who can fight like him (Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson, GSP, Anderson Silva). But McGregor is the only one who combines the two so seamlessly. He's never been in a boring fight in his life. Every second he's in the octagon is must-see-TV.
And then there's the 'Mystic Mac' concept. The idea that McGregor has the ability to predict the outcomes of his fights, his Bruce Lee-esque obsession with human movement and anatomy. He's charismatic in a way most fighters aren't. Cerebral, intelligent, hilarious, quotable. You get the sense that Conor can literally imagine scenarios into life by sheer force of will.
Look at this footage of him backstage rehearsing the single punch it took to knock out Jose Aldo.
Conor's self belief is possibly the most fascinating aspect of his personality and it's by far his most powerful weapon. MMA fans have witnessed him achieve the impossible. Which inspires that tiny sliver of doubt.
"Maybe he can do it?
"Maybe he can beat Floyd Mayweather?"
But Floyd's The Bigger Name, Right?
Yes, almost certainly. Floyd is a bigger name in mainstream circles and — crucially — this is a boxing match. We're in Mayweather's world here and he calls the shots. There's a clause in the contract that prohibits either party from discussing paydays, but almost certainly Floyd is making more money on this fight.
But make no mistake, the only reason this fight is happening is because of McGregor. It's Mayweather's biggest possible payday for the lowest amount of risk. Floyd gets to break Rocky Marciano's unbeaten record and move to 50-0 against an opponent he really shouldn't lose to.
Not when he can do this:
It could be a long night for McGregor.
Playing Devil's Advocate
But just in case you want to be 'that guy' arguing the case for McGregor, here's a few stock lines for you...
"Floyd's pretty old now, he hasn't fought in a couple of years. Is he still the same fighter?"
"McGregor's got 12 rounds and he only needs to hit him once."
"Floyd hasn't fought anyone with McGregor's style and reach."
"Floyd's always struggled against southpaws."
And if you want to be boring and play this thing straight down the middle.
"The speed discrepency's gonna be too much for Conor."
"Boxing's fought at a different range. McGregor's too inexperienced for that."
"Canelo couldn't knock Mayweather out, you think McGregor's got a shot?"
You could say a lot of things.
And that's a point many other MMA/boxing analysts/journalists have made: this is a fight custom built for hot takes. And those takes can exist on just about every possible spectrum. That's why this fight is so fun. It makes no sense, but that doesn't you can't talk shit about it.
It doesn't mean you can't enjoy the circus while it's in town.