Mixed martial art’s biggest star and the current UFC Lightweight Champion, Conor McGregor, will fight undefeated boxing legend Floyd Mayweather Jr. under boxing rules in Las Vegas on the 26th of August 2017. This fight is going to go down in history because it’s the first time a world champion MMA fighter has faced-off against a world champion boxer, under boxing rules.
On the face of it, there should be no way Conor McGregor can step into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather and do anything but lose. Indeed, most people have the fight pegged as an easy win for Mayweather. But don’t count him out just yet. Conor McGregor has made a career out of doing the impossible. After knocking out Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds to claim the Featherweight title, he moved up two weight classes to take on Nate Diaz at Welterweight, purely for the challenge, and lost. He became obsessed with a rematch against the much bigger Diaz, trained relentlessly for the event and became the victor at their second meeting.
It’s a credit to Conor McGregor’s self belief that he was able to do this. But is fighting Floyd Mayweather to much of an ask even for a man of McGregor’s legendary determination?
Let’s look at the stats. The retired Mayweather is 40, while McGregor is just 28. Mayweather is 5 foot 8 with a 72-inch reach. McGregor is 5 foot 9 with a 74-inch reach. It makes him the bigger man, and gives him an advantage in the clinch. Clinching isn’t technically allowed under boxing rules, but it happens a lot. McGregor’s skills in this area will be far greater than Mayweather’s, because of his MMA background. If he can tie Mayweather up in the clinch and use a bit of dirty boxing (things that aren’t really legal, but you can get away with, like grabbing the back of the head and throwing in uppercuts) then he stands a good chance of nullifying a lot of Mayweather’s attacks. Remember, McGregor only needs to grind this out to a draw to be effectively thought of as a winner.
Mayweather has made a name for himself as a fast counter puncher, so running in swinging is not going to be a good option for McGregor. Mayweather will want to keep moving and dart in and out, so a lot of his success could depend on how active the referee is in breaking them up from clinch positions. McGregor could use his size advantage in the clinch to rough Mayweather up – grabbing him, pushing him, throwing him on the floor. These borderline illegal moves could well tire Mayweather out over the course of the fight.
But remember, this is Conor McGregor going into Floyd Mayweather’s world. At least 50% of Conor’s skill set (kicking, grappling and submissions) will instantly become redundant. But as the quote from Mark Twain (1835 – 1910) reminds us, inexperience can sometimes be an advantage:
“There are some things that can beat smartness and foresight? Awkwardness and stupidity can. The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second best swordsman in the world; no, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do, and so the expert isn’t prepared for him; he does the thing he ought not to do; and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”
Which brings us nicely to the last factor that could swing the fight for Conor McGregor: his knockout power. Conor’s left hand has already put many of his opponents to sleep, and it’s just possible that a ‘lucky’ punch, or an unexpected one, in the style of Twain’s “ignorant antagonist”, could land on Mayweather’s jaw and send him the same way. It’s the proverbial fighter’s chance.
Of course, this is really all about the money. Win or lose, it won’t affect Conor McGregor’s MMA career and while he is already used to getting pay cheques with 7 figures on them, he hasn’t come close to a Floyd Mayweather-style payday before. For this fight both fighters are set to make $100 million each, which is more than Conor has made for all his previous fights combined!
The promotional tour for the match starts in Wembley, England, in July. Don’t miss it, because whatever happens, this one is going to go down in history.