Why the Mayweather-McGregor Fight Will Suck

The rumblings of the fabled Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight have become too loud for even the most dubious skeptics to ignore. [1] Last month, the UFC’s lightweight champ announced that he had signed his end of a contract and was waiting on Mayweather to sign his. Long before that, the retired boxer filed patents on two acronyms that suggested a big comeback: TMT50 (“The Money Team,” after Mayweather’s entourage) and TBE50 (“The Best Ever,” as he’s been known to call himself). The “50” stands for his 50th win, which would push Mayweather ahead of Rocky Marciano for the most all-time boxing wins on a perfect record.

Most recently, there’s been talk — still unconfirmed — that a date had been set for the fall. None of this means the fight will happen. But we’ve now reached a point where fans can begin to seriously consider the possibility and its price tag.

Back in January, McGregor — who is both the UFC’s biggest moneymaker and biggest mouth — predicted that this would be the world’s first $1 billion fight, which is unrealistic but not inconceivable. The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight generated about $600 million and an unprecedented cross-sport superfight would almost certainly be bigger, meaning both fighters could walk away with a $100 million or more. To put that figure in context, McGregor earned just over a third of that ($34 million) in 2016, and he was the only MMA fighter counted among the world’s 25 highest-paid athletes.

So the price is right, and if any fighters have the clout, the ego, and the business savvy to get it done, it’s these two. But the more interesting question, I think, is whether this is a fight we really want.

It’ll be the fight world’s greatest circus followed by its greatest letdown; the perfect example of the Hollywood-driven evolution to bigger and more spectacular trash.

It will be a boxing match, of course, because Mayweather is more likely to climb into a cage with an ill-tempered grizzly than into the Octagon with McGregor. McGregor, on the other hand, has already made it abundantly clear he doesn’t care what the rules are. As he put it in January: “Fuck the UFC, fuck the MMA, fuck boxing, fuck sports fighting. Let’s just say we fight.”

Even if the potential payout wasn’t enormous, McGregor has good reason to want this. Every living boxer would, and as a UFC fighter, McGregor knows that a single well-placed left can not only bring down a king, but an entire sport.

That punch is what everyone will be paying to see, but it won’t happen. I don’t think it would if you ran the fight through a simulator a hundred times. Sure, McGregor has talked about Mayweather’s difficulties with southpaws like him, how he’s studied the boxer’s weaknesses, how his fist is the size of Mayweather’s head (he called him “a Maltese with eyeballs”), but he’s also never boxed before. Ever. Mayweather is the best defensive boxer in the sport. In 49 fights, he’s only technically been put to the canvas once. He is, by default, perfectly positioned to put on a Mayweatherian performance — that is to say, a supremely technical and anticlimactic one. Andre Berto, the last man to be in the ring with Mayweather, said the only way McGregor wins is if he catches Floyd with a roundhouse.

Almost every boxer who’s been asked has said the same, often with a series of shrugs and sighs, knowing it’s impossible to cool fan expectations. It’ll be the fight world’s greatest circus followed by its greatest letdown; the perfect example of the Hollywood-driven evolution to bigger and more spectacular trash. “If you thought Mayweather-Pacquiao was a black eye for our sport — a matchup between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters that simply didn’t deliver — just wait until the best boxer of a generation dismantles someone who has never boxed competitively at any level,” Oscar De La Hoya said recently. “Our sport might not ever recover.”

I would go one step further and say MMA couldn’t either. You couldn’t design a fight in lab that better reveals the limits of the sport. McGregor is the best puncher in the UFC right now and this fight has already generated a near-universal consensus that he cannot trade punches with a boxer of a certain calibre. Anderson Silva, who is widely regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, whose style drew frequent comparisons to Muhammad Ali, has boxed professionally only twice, both times against opponents you’ve never heard of. He has a record of 1-1.

I know the familiar retorts: that McGregor is at the peak of his career, that Mayweather has gotten older, perhaps slower. Fine. I’m happy to be proven wrong, and frankly I’d probably enjoy watching a cartoon villain like Floyd get beat up by a younger, brasher fighter. But if this does happen, I think we’re going to get the fight we deserve, not the one we want.

[1] This story was published before the Mayweather-McGregor fight was officially announced. The card is now set for August 26 in Las Vegas.