Will Mayweather-McGregor affect boxing or MMA? Not at all
It’s happening. It’s really happening.
What was originally deemed as inconceivable has become believable. Only in the age of social media could something so unusual be spoken into existence. But we are here and now Floyd Mayweather Jr. will put his 49-0 record on the line against Conor McGregor on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
Oh, in case you haven’t heard, Conor McGregor has never had a professional boxing match. Yes, he’s the current UFC lightweight champion and the former UFC featherweight champion who has dynamite in his left hand. But comparing MMA to boxing is like comparing basketball to soccer where the only thing in common is the use of a ball and the object being to put said ball into the net.
This isn’t a fight; this is an event. A spectacle, if you will. Arguably the greatest boxer of this generation will face somebody who has no idea what it is like having only his hands as weapons. The last time a boxer and an MMA fighter squared off against each other, James Toney made an ill-advised stroll into the UFC Octagon at UFC 118 on Aug. 28, 2010 against Randy Couture and was choked out in just over three minutes.
The difference between Mayweather-McGregor and Couture-Toney is that Toney was a shell of his former self and Couture was on the last legs of a career that wasn’t nearly as dominant as Floyd Mayweather’s was in boxing.
Nevertheless, when Toney tapped out to Couture, there was no fallout. Boxing fans weren’t ashamed nor were MMA fans celebrating as if they had proven their dominance. It went exactly as expected. And that’s the reason that Mayweather-McGregor does little to nothing for either sport.
Just like Mayweather is in business for himself, McGregor is like a diet version of Mayweather. There is truly no care for the future of their respective professions. Not on this night, at least. Granted, Mayweather will feature several fighters from Mayweather Promotions on the undercard. But, let’s be honest, those who are purchasing this fight will pay little-to-no attention to the undercard. Like most big boxing events – and more so here – people will not be tuning in until the main event.
If Mayweather wins, which is what a vast majority expect him to do, he did what he was supposed to do. Only now he gets to cash another $100-million check in the process. If he loses, it will be a huge shock to everyone but boxing won’t suffer a single iota. The detractors weren’t going to purchase Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin on Sept. 16 anyway. It’s not like a Mayweather loss will make boxing fans turn in their fan card. The same goes for mixed martial arts. If McGregor loses, it was because he was supposed to. If he wins, then that’s good for him. Not the UFC.
There is no crossover appeal here. MMA fans won’t become boxing fans nor will boxing fans become MMA fans. Those who are fans of both will remain the same while the casual viewer who is tuning in for a good spectacle won’t remember this as a significant contribution to combat sports.
When Muhammad Ali faced Japanese pro wrestler Antonio Inoki on June 25, 1976, the exhibition fight had no bearing on how their respective sports were viewed afterward. It was a novelty event that most who witnessed it would prefer to never speak of again. It was better in theory than it was in practice. But, either way, both Ali and Inoki inflicted no damage on their sport.
But there is a residual effect that could play a significant role in the immediate future of the UFC.
Win or lose, McGregor is in the prime of his mixed martial arts career and has put together a series of performances that will go down in history. Not to mention that he is, by far, their biggest star. But while chasing after a dream fight with Mayweather, he hasn’t been able to compete in the Octagon since UFC 205 last November. In the process, the UFC has struggled to see any of their PPVs without the Irishman fare well in the sales department. With the UFC having drastically lighter payouts than boxing and McGregor being such an integral part of the UFC’s immediate future, you can only imagine what kind of leverage that McGregor will return with when it comes to negotiating his next UFC fight.
Do you think he’ll settle for a disclosed purse of $3 million when he just fought for whatever astronomical amount he’ll be paid for boxing Mayweather? More importantly, McGregor is an intelligent businessman that knows his worth and is aware of the demand for his presence in the UFC after his event with Mayweather has come to completion.
McGregor will be a bigger star, the UFC will not.
As for Mayweather, he’s already retired and there are many who could care less about seeing him fight again. And that even goes for the most hardcore boxing fans. Nothing changes and fight fans will immediately move on to the next one. The only individuals sinking a great deal of time into this will be the talking heads on sports shows who know absolutely nothing about either sport.
Maybe more UFC fighters will try their hand at boxing (if they can convince the organization to allow them to box), but it is highly unlikely. As UFC president Dana White said: “This is a one-time deal.”
The UFC will gain some added exposure. But what that amounts to is unknown. We’ll probably get to see a few more McGregor highlights on SportsCenter but that won’t necessarily make people run out to buy the next UFC. In the end, viewers will know all about McGregor and he will deposit a big fat check into his banking account. As for Mayweather, he’ll ride off into the sunset with a 50-0 record against the most unlikely of opponents. But, more importantly, he’ll cash another ridiculous check for what will largely amount to some easy work.
If you are a combat sports fan and are hoping to see your sport gain some added exposure, you’ll get it, albeit briefly. But it will exist in the vacuum known as Mayweather-McGregor that may be fought in a boxing ring but won’t alter the course of boxing or MMA history.
It’ll be another footnote in the long history of combat sports and deserves a chapter in-between Ali-Inoki and Rocky vs. Thunderlips.