There are enough ‘ifs’ to make Mayweather vs McGregor the biggest sporting event in recent memory
Over the past decade, combat sport has increasingly followed its own path when defining what makes an elite contest.
The best taking on the best? In an ideal situation, great, but not a requirement. The best talker taking on the best talker? Deal.
This is not meant as a criticism, more praise and recognition of the sport’s growing embrace of one of the key marketing approaches available – hype.
With Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor you not only have the brashest men in the fight business, you also have the shrewdest business men in the fight business. No two athletes on the planet get the importance of ‘hype’ more than these two do and that’s exactly why this “first ever billion-dollar fight” is a no-brainer for them.
They are of course both immensely talented within their own field but it’s their ability to know what sells that makes them most alike.
There is a good reason Mayweather’s nickname is ‘Money’. He’s created over $1bn in pay-per-view revenue in the last 10 years of his career and has been named the highest paid athlete in the world on numerous occasions. When he fought Manny Pacquaio in 2015, nearly 5m fans paid for the privilege and it brought in $400m for just 36 minutes of boxing.
McGregor, not to be outdone, is the most influential speaker in combat sports; this is a man who people paid pay-per-view just to watch a live stream of a recent Q&A. He gained over 2m views on a short clip of him shadow boxing that he posted on his Instagram account, and a tweet last year hinting at retirement became the most retweeted post by a sportsperson in history.
Build-up to a big fight is now an event in itself. Slights in a pre-fight press conference are rarely truly off the cuff and instead carefully orchestrated to create headlines, increase conversation across social media, gain views and ultimately increase revenue through pay-per-view.
Manchester United are the richest football club in the world, with supporters across the globe. But would anyone other than the true die-hard fan tune-in to watch their pre-match press conference? When you compare to the pandemonium, pantomime and genuine enjoyment of those orchestrated by McGregor in particular, you could easily charge pay-per-view for this alone and nobody would feel short changed.
Anyone who has ever glanced at a boxing match will be able to tell you that, in a ring and not an octagon, Mayweather should win every single round for as long as it lasts.
But there are enough doubts to turn this. What IF McGregor lands that long, southpaw left-cross? What IF Mayweather gets old overnight? And what IF McGregor gets yet another prediction correct and that he cracks Mayweather’s “little head clean off his shoulders and up into the bleachers”?
The clash of minds pre-fight may well outdo the clash of fists but no matter how much this fight is dismissed as a ridiculous mismatch, there are enough ‘ifs’ to make sure the hype train won’t be derailed and if made, this will be the richest fight in boxing history and we’ll enjoy every second of it.