By Andreas Hale
The Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor world tour has been a success thus far with sold out venues and raucous crowds. And it appears that McGregor has held the upper hand when it comes to the trash-talking department while Mayweather has struggled with winning over audiences. Some say that the 40-year-old has lost a step, but that isn’t necessarily true. In all actuality, it’s all by design.
What Floyd Mayweather has managed to accomplish throughout the entirety of this build is create an atmosphere where McGregor is the fan favorite. All the while, he’s done his absolute best to stay in the game when it comes to talking but say just enough to deliver the allusion that the Irishman is a formidable opponent.
It cannot be further from the truth but it is exactly what is needed if this fight is going to eclipse the monster gate and PPV sales of Mayweather’s 2015 affair with Manny Pacquiao.
Once again, love him or hate him, this is Mayweather the businessman at work.
For his past few fights, Mayweather has strayed from tearing down his opponents. Instead, he’s said just enough to make it seem as if he is second-guessing himself. He’s far from the man who tore Oscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley to shreds with verbal tirades. One might suggest that he’s too old for the mind games, and that may be true to a certain extent. However, he knows what he’s dealing with when it comes to the quick witted McGregor and is happy to allow the UFC lightweight champion the opportunity to talk up the fight, no matter how vicious those verbal jabs are.
And they have been brutal.
After a relatively tame first night in Los Angeles, McGregor came out swinging in Toronto. He got in Mayweather’s face, called both Mayweather and Showtime Sports’ vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza out of their names. The Irishman left almost no stone unturned as he cleverly went after Mayweather’s rumored inability to read while firing salvos that would make most opponents want to fight. Granted, the New York stop found McGregor hitting a snag with a poorly delivered verbal assault. Aside from that snafu, McGregor has shown himself as the wittier trash talker.
But Mayweather is too smart for that. No matter what McGregor says, he is clearly aware that McGregor is in his proper place as the hero. Unlike Manny Pacquiao, who is always respectful of his opponents, McGregor has a mouthpiece similar to pro wrestling babyfaces Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock. He’s almost an anti-hero out there who is facing insurmountable odds against one of the greatest practitioners of the sweet science in history. MMA fans are gobbling it up while those who are getting sucked into the event’s orbit are also enjoying the tounge lashing that McGregor has been delivering. Meanwhile, Mayweather is simply watching the sales for this fight go through the roof.
Everyone knew that it would take something massive to eclipse Mayweather-Pacquiao. This is it. And the reason has absolutely nothing to do with what will happen between the ropes on August 26th. While Mayweather-Pacquiao was all about what would happen when the unstoppable force faced the (somewhat) immovable object, Mayweather-McGregor is encompasses every aspect of the modern day man. It was built on social media and the avalanche of hype has been delivered in sound bites. They make for perfect fodder where uneducated analysts can ignorantly speculate during their talk shows. To the untrained eye, the allusion of McGregor being younger, stronger, faster and witty has reduced Mayweather to an old man who could be in over his head. People want to see David slay Goliath. Only, Goliath is a pesky thief in the night named Mayweather who is unlike any other villain when he steps into the ring.
He knows it that part very well.
For years, a Mayweather fight was all about the hype and then audiences left deflated when the undefeated boxer would play a high-octane game of chess with his opponent. His skill in the boxing ring is far from a heel tactic. But people hated him anyway because he stole their money without giving them back something exciting. After he reduced Manny Pacquiao to a mere mortal, fans had finally caught on to his trick. There was no “what if?” when Andre Berto was named as his next opponent. The moneybag was already secured and all Mayweather had to do was go out and do what he always does.
But this is different. Although McGregor has lost two professional MMA fights (by submission) his striking ability has been nothing short of phenomenal in the Octagon. Few can stand and trade with him (although many will argue that Nate Diaz gave him hell in both of their fights) and he’s a true student of the game. The highlights tell a far better story than watching all of his fights. In small doses, it looks like McGregor can knock down a tree. And his mouth dares you to prove him wrong. But boxing fans are keenly aware that MMA striking vs. boxing have almost entirely different rules of engagement.
The casual fan doesn’t care. Those who like McGregor don’t care. They see those clips and wonder what will happen if McGregor lands that shot on Mayweather. That’s all Mayweather needs. The fact that there are fans who are dying to see him finally take a loss coupled with those who truly believe in McGregor has created an atmosphere that is beyond spectacle. And the more that Mayweather plants these small seeds that he’s old and not the fighter he used to be, the more the analysts will hitch their wagon to the McGregor bus and tell their audiences that McGregor just might be in Floyd Mayweather’s head.
That small window of opportunity is not something that Mayweather is about to slam shut. Instead, he’ll ride out the idea of being the villain who may finally get his comeuppance on August 26th. Conor McGregor is doing his job for him, all he has to do is keep things entertaining and bait his opponent into delivering the most lethal of verbal viciousness. It all plays into the hand and is helping make this fight something nobody will want to miss.
Even if you say you don’t want to watch it because it is a farce (which it is), you don’t want to miss the moment it happens. There are people being swayed to buy Mayweather-McGregor who weren’t interested a few weeks ago. And there will be a significant amount of impulse buys because the fight isn’t competing with the NFL, NBA or any other sporting event of significance.
Both sides are playing their part and fooling people into believing that this could be competitive. It won’t be. But you won’t want to miss it.