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Well, here we are.

On Saturday August 26, 2017, the undefeated Floyd "Money" Mayweather Jr. will come out of retirement to face MMA's biggest star, "The Notorious" Conor McGregor in a 12-round boxing match. The official announcement of the event came at about mid-day (in the United States) on Wednesday, June 14, originally reported by ESPN. The fight will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. It will be Mayweather's first fight at T-Mobile Arena, as the venue only recently opened in April of 2016, 7 months after his last fight. McGregor has fought in the arena once before, at UFC 202 in his rematch with Nate Diaz.

The fight card will be a boxing-only card. The event will air on Showtime as a pay-per-view fight, and the UFC will have minimal involvement in the event. Mayweather Promotions is handling the undercard, which has not been set yet, but Mayweather has expressed the desire to bring in some of his promotion's biggest stars to fight on the card.

This fight. Is a big deal.

Even if you're not a fight fan, not a boxing fan, not a sports fan, this is still an astronomical event that you will likely be hearing a lot about between now and the fight, especially in the week leading up to the fight. So for the sake of the relatively uninvested let me explain several of the reasons why this fight is

SUCH. A BIG. DEAL.

Let's start with the most conspicuous of reasons. The reason that is at least half the reason for at least half of the things that happen everywhere every day.

~ The money. MY GOD, THE MONEY.

It's truly staggering to take in just how much money will be grossed over the course of this event. Looking at the numbers out of context, you would think that this is a once in a lifetime event, that would surely eclipse any and every other event in history. But actually, based on the projected numbers for this fight, there is one other recent fight that looks to be very comparable, and which I will therefore use as a frame of reference (I'm certainly not the first one to draw the comparison). The other fight was Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao, which occured in May of 2015. It was a fight that had been 6 years in the making, and drew a lot of anticipation and hype at the time, especially among more casual boxing fans.

Mayweather vs. Pacquiao sold 4.6 million pay-per-view buys (despite the somewhat disgusting $100 USD price tag) which generated $455 million in revenue. The event's live gate generated over $72 million. All of these numbers shattered the existing records, which were also set by previous Mayweather fights. Between the PPV buys, live gate, merchandise sales, sponsorship and advertisement revenue, and betting revenue in the state of Nevada, the event grossed $623.5 million.

And now, barely 2 years later, we have another fight that's generating a lot of anticipation (or at least curiosity) from the spectrum of boxing fans from the most educated to the most passive. ESPN is projecting that Mayweather vs. McGregor will sell slightly more PPV buys than Mayweather vs. Pacquiao at 4.75 million buys generating $475 million at an assumed $100 price tag. However the gate sales for the event and betting revenue in the state of Nevada are projected to be less than that of the Pacquiao fight because of the fact that the event is being widely perceived as more of a spectacle than a legitimate contest (more on that later). The Pacquiao fight also took place at a different venue--the MGM Grand Garden Arena (which is under the same ownership as T-Mobile Arena) and has a smaller capacity than T-Mobile Arena by over 3,000. Even though the event is expected to sell out, ticket prices are expected to be less competitive for Mayweather vs. McGregor considering the larger venue capacity and the relative downplay of the event (the average ticket price of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was $4,451...I seriously doubt that will ever happen at another live sporting event anywhere ever).

With the descrepancy in gate sales and betting revenue, early projections show that Mayweather vs. McGregor will fall slightly short of the overall gross from Mayweather vs. Pacquiao, but only ever so slightly (between $15 million and $25 million). Yet it's truly remarkable that we are coming upon an event that will come anywhere near the overall gross of the Pacquiao fight. By the end of the night both Mayweather and McGregor are expected to earn over $100 million each from the fight. Even if it's not record-setting that is still

Genuinely. Ludicrous.

And these projections are still very early. I'm no analyst or number cruncher, but 4.75 million PPV buys actually seems rather low to me. Then again, it shouldn't be assumed at this point that the PPV will sell for $100 apiece either (I sure hope not). But most importantly, the fight has only just been announced and the ball has yet to get really rolling. The fight has already received a lot of publicity just based on popular demand, but no "real" marketing and promotion has been put into this fight yet. There is still yet to be an official press conference. Between all the talk shows, interviews, preview specials, prognosticators, and general coverage, we have yet to see what the crazy world of combat sports public relations and media will generate for this event, and after the fight we'll get to see the differences between projection and reality.

But even without promotion, this fight has already gathered a lot of momentum to say the least. Which brings us to a more detailed look at the next reason why this fight is such a big deal:

~ The anticipation.

The rumors, talk, and demand of this fight have been swirling around for a while now. Although Mayweather promotions will be handling most of the details of this event, it was McGregor who made the initial push for this fight as he was building his career and his image in the UFC. I won't get into the minutiae of who said what word for word, because all the smack talk and promotion of the fight from the fighters' mouths themselves has been and will continue to be both well-documented and easy to find.

But suffice it to say that McGregor has been talking about and focusing on this fight even since before his most recent MMA bout at UFC 205 in New York City in November of 2016. In December of that year, McGregor was granted a boxing license in the state of California. In May of 2017, McGregor applied for a boxing license in the state of Nevada. In January of 2017 McGregor hosted a pay-per-view interview (really?) in which he stated that his next fight will be a boxing match. Mayweather has consistently shown an amenability to the fight, stating in May of 2017 that the only fight that he would come out of retirement to accept would be the McGregor fight. Considering Mayweather's history for being a stickler in fight negotiations, with a reputation of stalling talks for months at a time, most sources agree that negotiations for this fight went relatively smoothly and efficiently.

Ever since the first whispers that the fight was a possibility, fans and media outlets in both the MMA community and boxing community have been chirping about it. In virtually every public appearance that both Mayweather and McGregor made in 2017, they were asked about this fight. UFC president Dana White has said that pretty much the only thing that anyone ever asks him about recently is this fight, in spite of all the other UFC events that have happened in the wake of McGregor's absence. It's not hyperbole at all to say that the world of sports has been waiting for this.

An obvious part of what makes this such a high-profile fight is that it concerns 2 high-profile fighters. Both men are talkers, self-promoters, made for the spotlight, and share a deep love of money. But despite the instant recognizability of both men, there are stark differences in terms of their popularity. McGregor is a brash figure, a loudmouth if you will, but his fighting style is that of a warrior, a conqueror. He's not afraid of anyone, for better or worse, and his flamboyance, aggressiveness, and pride in his nationality (Irish, in case it wasn't clear) has made him an adored and revered figure in the MMA community.

Mayweather on the other hand is universally respected, but also heavily despised for putting on performances that are widely perceived as boring to fans. Mayweather is a defensive specialist--a master at being able to absorb a minimal amount of damage. He plays the game of constantly trying to out-point and out-fox his opponents, rather than committing his aggression or looking for an opportunity to finish the fight. It's a highly intelligent brand of fighting, and he has an undefeated record to show for it, but in his last several fights I would dare to say that most people were badly wanting the arrogant and unentertaining champion to get his comeuppance. Adding to Mayweather's lack of popularity is the fact that he's been convicted multiple times of domestic battery charges against a handful of different women.

Now I'll admit that this analysis is more subjective, but it seems that the potential for this fight to be perceived as a good guy vs. bad guy fight would only help to fuel the anticipation behind it. Although I doubt that the fight would be openly promoted as such. But another angle from which the fight could be perceived, and perhaps more easily promoted, is the David vs. Goliath angle. Which leads us into looking at another reason why this fight is such a big deal:

~ The history/lack of precedence

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. is 49-0 in his pro boxing career. His record is tied with the late great heavyweight Rocky Marciano for the most amount of wins by an undefeated professional boxer in the history of the sport, i.e. the greatest record of all time. With one more win he will be alone at 50-0 and have a claim to the greatest record of all time, and a fair argument as the greatest boxer of all time. But that 50th win, if it happens, will be coming at the expense of a man who is making his professional debut in the sport of boxing.

Think of how insane that is. McGregor's record is 0-0. He's up against 49-0. Nobody has ever heard of such a thing in any combat sport on any level, because nothing remotely resembling it has ever happened before. Opening betting odds for the fight has Mayweather as a -1100 favorite (which is to say, heavily heavily favored) and this is a main event fight. As a fan of the sport, this is an absolute anomaly.

So far very few analysts or commentators, especially in the boxing world, are giving McGregor any chance of being able to compete in the fight. But it's not as if McGregor was stepping into a boxing ring with no real combat experience. Such a thing would be nothing short of farcical. McGregor does have 24 professional MMA fights, and 1 amateur fight. Furthermore, McGregor's greatest strength and biggest asset as a MMA fighter is his "stand-up" game, which closely relates to boxing in terms of punching technique and footwork, but with the obvious exceptions that throwing kicks, knees, and elbows are not legal in boxing.

But despite McGregor's general strengths in boxing tequnique, he's taking on a completely different animal in Mayweather. If men as talented and with such boxing pedigrees as Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, Miguel Cotto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Shane Mosley, Oscar de la Hoya, Arturo Gatti, and Manny Pacquiao could do little to nothing to penetrate the defense of Mayweather or even win more than a handful of rounds each, then why should anyone think that McGregor can do what these men couldn't, with literally no boxing pedigree whatsoever? It seems as though McGregor has little to no chance of taking a decision vs. Mayweather, and that his best chance to win the fight is by knockout, but we've said the same thing about all the other aforementioned Mayweather opponents as they were about to fight him, and every other opponent Mayweather has faced for approximately the last 20 years.

With that being said, there are still some other aspects of the fight that might favor McGregor, one of them being yet another reason why this compelling fight is such a big deal:

~ The timing

In this fight, we have a case of one fighter being on the upswing, and one fighter being on the downswing. Mayweather turned 40 years old in February. McGregor will turn 29 in July. At the time that the negotiations were still taking place, it was generally agreed upon by both parties that the fight would have to happen in 2017, or it wasn't happening at all. 40 is a remarkable age to be fighting professionally, which adds to the unlikeliness that this fight would have ever occured in the first place. As well as the fact that Mayweather had already retired and had expressed no interest to fight again professionally until the opportunity to fight McGregor arose.

While Mayweather's illustrious career is almost entirely behind him, McGregor has just recently built himself up to the top. After Ronda Rousey's fall from grace in her 2 most recent fights, McGregor is easily the UFC's biggest star and their most valuable commodity. He has never been more popular, and he is in the best position now to make as much money as he can in the most financially lucrative fight of his career. Because the reality is that while McGregor has enjoyed a good deal of success in the UFC, the caliber of his opponents has been questionable. When he returns to the UFC, some but not all possible suitors for his next fight include Max Holloway, Frankie Edgar, Cody Garbrandt, Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Tyron Woodley. These are all extremely good fighters, and it can be argued that they're each better than any of McGregor's previous opponents (although McGregor has fought and defeated Holloway before, that was 4 years ago, and a lot has changed since then). With McGregor's potential downfall in the UFC yet to come, with his stock as high as it will ever be, and with a closing window to fight Mayweather, this fight was now or never.

But it isn't never, it's now. This isn't a purely spectulative dream fight scenario, as in "what would've happened if Marciano fought Muhammad Ali? What about Ali vs. Mike Tyson? Tyson vs. Wladimir Klitschko?" This dream is real. We're actually getting to see what would happen if Conor McGregor fought Floyd Mayweather, Jr. But before you let somebody on television tell you how much of a one-sided fight and how much of a waste of money this fight will be, let me tell you

why this fight might not be terrible:

For one thing, the fight is taking place at 154 lbs (Super Welterweight). This is somewhat surprising, considering Mayweather's history that most of his recent fights have been at 147 lbs (Welterweight) and McGregor's history that he's had to struggle and suffer to cut to 145 lbs to fight in the UFC's Featherweight division. Most people probably expected that Mayweather would make McGregor cut the weight. But considering that Mayweather is coming out of retirement to take this fight, even though the man seems to be in shape, cutting to 147 lbs might not have been very easy or fun for him either. This will make a big difference in the fighters' conditions. 7 pounds might not seem like that big of a difference to some, but believe me, to a fighter's health, hydration, muscle mass, and power, 7 pounds means a lot.

As alluded to before, McGregor stands a fighting chance because he's a proficient stand-up fighter. He has a long reach, very fast hands, and has shown knockout power in both hands. He is tenacious and determined, and it seems as though he has been planning for this fight for a while, so he's undoubtedly put a lot of time into training and studying for this fight. And to be honest, no matter what happens I couldn't see this fight being much more disappointing than 9 out of 10 of Mayweather's last 10 fights, including the Pacquiao fight. But in the interest of fairness we should also discuss

why this fight might be terrible:

One has to admit that this fight is pretty gimmicky. One has to concede that Mayweather has dispatched many fighters that are all (probably) better than McGregor. Because although McGregor's hands are good, his footwork is only slightly above average. You need to have considerably above average footwork to box at the top level. Another highly relevant detail is the difference between MMA gloves and boxing gloves. In the UFC, fighters wear small 4-ounce gloves with fingerholes, allowing most of a formed fist and knuckles to make contact with every punch. Boxers lace up 10-ounce gloves that fully encompass their fists with padding. This is quite an adjustment for a fighter, especially one who's never boxed professionally.

McGregor will probably be looking to put a lot of power into his shots, and is known as a deadly accurate puncher, but he's never tried to punch Mayweather. McGregor is likely to miss a lot of those power shots, and might over-exert his energy and punch himself out. And no matter who Floyd is facing, Floyd is Floyd...this is the most elusive, frustrating, do-anything-to-win fighter of all time. He'll probably get his hand raised in the end because we've never seen anything else from the man.

But this is a very different fight than anything we've seen before. It's very different from any boxing match, any MMA bout, any combat sporting event ever held, and it has to be judged under a different lens. This is the biggest crossover fight ever made. This is a conjunction of two massive and closely related fighting organizations represented by two of its most recognizable stars. This is history in the making, and the money will rain, not only for the fighters, but for the commission, the city of Las Vegas, Showtime, all the sponsors, and all the sporting outlets. In financial terms, this event will move mountains. Considering the money and the magnitude of the event, and considering how unlikely the occurance of the fight was in the first place, the real fight is already won.

So am I excited for this fight? Not extremely, or at least not for the fight itself. Do I have high expectations for this fight? Not really, I'm guessing it probably won't even be one of the 10 best fights of the year when all is said and done. Am I invested? Oh, absolutely. I am intrigued and enthralled and impressed more so than for any other fight announcement ever made. I am absolutely on board, for the spectacle, for the ride. And it seems as though the rest of the sports world is on board as well.

 

References:
http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/19637155/floyd-mayweather-conor-mcgregor-megafight-finalized-aug-26
http://nypost.com/2015/05/12/the-absurd-mayweather-pacquiao-money-numbers-roll-in/
http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/19548160/boxing-how-much-money-floyd-mayweather-vs-conor-mcgregor-make
http://www.espn.com/boxing/story/_/id/19639313/megafight-principals-all-agree-closing-mayweather-mcgregor-deal-came-smoothly

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