I honestly believe one of the the aspects that makes MMA more appealing to my generation than boxing, to generalize greatly but truthfully, is the certain degree of chaos that permeates the sports. From the promotion of a fight, to the press conferences, to the weigh-ins, there is a certain degree of frenzied uncertainty that makes all that pageantry that much more fun. I mean, we’re talking about a sport where grown men and woman, barely clothed, beat the bag out of each other with limited rules and still some of the more memorable moments happen during routine pre-fight business.
That’s not to say boxing has never had it’s moments, shame on me if I ignored the masterful rhetoric of Ali or blatantly insane musings of Tyson, but in hindsight, compared to MMA, it seemed a bit rehearsed, a bit staged. Sure, Ali put on a show for the ages, seeming almost boastfully annoyed his opponent would ever meet him in the ring. Buttttt then you have Jake Shields firing a macchiato at Artem Lobov or some other SBG team member while the Diaz brothers flipped the bird and Connor McGregor returned fire with an energy drink. The headliners of that fight were making millions of dollars on a card that would rake in millions more. MMA is now a legit business and a legit sport, but the uncertainty remained and remains, it can’t be quelled.
Which brings us to McGregor’s upcoming boxing match with Floyd Mayweather. On Monday they held the first presser of a 3 country, 4 city press tour to promote a fight that is more spectacle than competition, regardless of predicted or eventual winners. The fight itself is itself a debate probably every fan of combat sports has had over the past 20 years or so: what happens when you put the best MMA fighter and the best boxer against each other. Whether the former (McGregor now) or latter (Mayweather anymore) is true, you have a dynamite enough cross-section of the two sports in name and reputation to warrant the hullaballoo the fight itself has caused.
However, I don’t think I’m along when I say I was just as interested to see class of styles in promotion: the semi-scripted, reality tv-esque machismo of boxing vs. the “Um Jones and Cormier just put Sholler through a temporary wall” tornado of MMA. Conor McGregor did his part. He showed up in his flashy pink tie and blue suit, the pin stripes of which were actually the tiny words “Fuck You” printed over and over again. He swaggered, he jawed, he got the crowd going. He smiled that “4 years ago I was on welfare and now I have all you motherfuckers eating out of my hand” smile. It was awesome to have him back.
Mayweather….started ok. He was the silent, stoic Floyd he’s been for his last couple of fights; a bored, bothered character his promotional company has used as a foil to throw opponent after opponent at to see if anyone could topple the apathetic king. The whole production has worked of course, raking in billions, and I suppose it could work on this tour as well, matched up against Connor’s bluster and self-confidence (he honestly, to the bone believes he is winning this fight, within four rounds at that). However, he has to play the high-stakes jenga game that is an MMA promotional endeavor at least a little bit. And right here is where he made a colossal mistake.
McGregor and Mayweather sat on stage answering questions. Connor was the Connor we all know and love, laughing, taunting, soaking it all in, looking at the crowd and nodding “isn’t this great” – and interrupting. This is where Connor excels and really gets in his opponents head/ear (Please watch this to give credit and honor to the one true king of Interruptsmanship). He once called Nate Diaz a cholo. He once asked New York City who the fuck venerable, two weight UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens was. He doesn’t let you dictate inside the cage and doesn’t let you speak outside of it. It is why he, the UFC, and all his opponents and other fighters on his cards have benefited financially from his time at the top.
And Mayweather Promotions cut his mic off.
Although Floyd has never been the most articulate, loquacious guy in the world and quite frankly doesn’t seem to care to speak a whole lot anymore (to be clear, he is a master with the press, I just don’t think he gives a shit), his team’s insistence on their guy being “the A-side” and having more than his time to shine took priority over the whole reason this fight was ever made: Conor being Conor. That is the undeniable truth. There is a reason Floyd never fought BJ Penn or any of the other MMA fighters of his approximate weight and time. Floyd is only one half of the puzzle and before Conor no one else could complete it. What finally is going to give combat sports fans their answer to the questions of what boxer vs. MMA fighter would look like, and give Floyd a massive payday that he actually might need , is not just a fighter of multiple disciplines who has the skill to make fans demand and pay for it, but has the charisma. And the mouth. That was and is only Conor.
And Mayweather Promotions cut his mic off.
Moving forward, it will be interesting to see if this trend of making sure Floyd gets his close up continues. McGregor getting muted was noticed and confirmed by the man himself so they may rethink censoring him moving forward, although then again, Floyd doesn’t really give a shit. Regardless, as it stands now Mayweather Promotions has so far refused to cede any of the promotional creativity to the magnetic tight rope walk that is MMA’s. Floyd Mayweather may have a flawless record in the ring but when it comes to truly letting this dream live to be a reality he has some work to do.
His record there is now 0-1.