After what feels like years of chest-puffing and across-the-aisle shit talking, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather have finally agreed to fight each other for what will undoubtedly be a huge pile of money. The fight will take place in Las Vegas on August 26. It will be a 12-round bout at 154 pounds, and dumb as hell.
On paper, the matchup might seem intriguing: Mayweather has home-field advantage, but is 40 years old and has technically been retired for almost two years, while the 28-year-old McGregor has a two-inch reach advantage and a track record of flattening the jaws and ambitions of many a UFC featherweight and lightweight with his meaty left hand. He is one of the best fighters in the UFC and he’s made his name by punching the snot out of people, a skill that would seem to translate to boxing fairly easily. Boxing and MMA are close enough that his age and vigor could help close gap with Floyd, right?
No, of course not! McGregor may be one of the better boxers in MMA, but that means little for his prospects in a fight with an actual boxer, let alone an all-time great. He’s never fought anyone remotely approaching Mayweather’s level, and barely made it out of a boxing match with Nate Diaz. (The Stocktonian is a hero and a fine boxer, but McGregor turned the tide in their rematch with an avalanche of leg kicks more than anything.)
McGregor has gotten away with being the aggressor in all of his MMA fights— although he ended his title bout with José Aldo before anyone could get an idea of how he worked against a defensive master—because even top-level MMA fighters can’t box, generally. The longest fight McGregor has been in during his 24-fight MMA career went five rounds, and he’s only ever made it past the second against two opponents. A 12-rounder against someone like Floyd Mayweather is an entirely different athletic event to approach; even if his conditioning is good, he will have to consider all sorts of different angles and rhythms, and even if his knockout power is legit, it’s like asking Steph Curry to step in and guard Odell Beckham Jr. Steph is quick and spry, but he wouldn’t necessarily be as elite at the specific suite of movements required of an NFL cornerback.
As for Mayweather, a world-class asshole and bad person, he has certainly lost a step or four from his prime. That has not, however, slowed him down much, and as he showed in the last megafight he took part in, the process of aging doesn’t affect a boxer acutely if he’s a defensive guru who gets by on measuring distances perfectly, patiently protecting himself at all times, and catching opponents with counterpunches when they try to hit him. Mayweather will sit and wait for McGregor to come at him, and when the Irishman does, Mayweather will be waiting to pounce. McGregor will be out his depth in Mayweather’s sport, and even if you ignore the massive tactical disadvantage, he has never fought anyone as quick as Mayweather. If he pushes the action, he could get tired or open himself up to devastating potshots; if he sits back, he’ll be playing cat-and-mouse with one of the coolest customers ever to step foot into a boxing ring.
This publicity stunt of a fight will, naturally, make both men very rich, and if McGregor makes the December return to the Octagon he is projected to (that is, if he is motivated to fight someone like Tony Ferguson for a mere seven figures after carrying what will be a record-shattering PPV event), he will do so for a shitload of money. He seems to believe he has a genuine chance at winning. As much as it would rule to see the UFC’s loudmouthed fight king knock Mayweather on his ass, he will not win. He’s fighting on Mayweather’s turf, to lock down a career payday. The fight will be a spectacle—a uniquely dumb one that will serve its purpose, which is to make a shitload of money. The sports qua sports of it are ancillary. That was never the point.