The fight of the century, the fight of the millennium, the farce to end all farces? Pick your title.
Stage 1 — A Fantasy
Are you a fantasist? Do you like to watch strange things? Did you watch Batman vs Superman and begin to salivate over what would happen when two contrasting worlds collided? What if Ned Flanders and Peter Griffin had a pie eating contest? Or if a marathon runner decided to compete in a triathlon? Do you also like to throw heaps of money at Las Vegas casinos and freak shows? Well then there are two wealthy men who have quite the proposition for you.
Stage 2 — The Build
November 2016– Seven minutes into the UFC Lightweight title bout in Madison Square Garden and the crowd goes wild. Conor McGregor is a 2 weight champion. He hoists his belts proudly in the air. He’s done it, 2 belts in another promotion — you wouldn’t dare doubt him now.
But defending these titles is overrated. Conor is thinking big. He’s had this next step in his mind for years. It’s time to break new grounds and build up that bank account more. It’s time to awaken the semi-retired giant who exists in the “rival” sport. The big time sport talk shows love this fantasy concept after the plan to get Ronda Rousey to fight this boxing all time great went down the drain.
Floyd Mayweather senses that there are 9 more figures to be made off this loudmouth Irishman if he can get Dana White and the UFC to play ball. He goes from a happily retired smart and satisfied businessman to a tax-dodging tyrant in the space of months. “He needs the money” the critics say. He calls out McGregor, questioning his bravery and pride. McGregor jabs back as only he knows how to. The sequence is repeated for another few months. This fight could be a reality but is still a long way off from being sealed. Boxing purists briefly shudder.
Stage 3 — The Announcement
The murmurs grow and grow. Both fighters give hints but nothing concrete. The mixture of outrage and excitement builds gradually. Then on a mid-June afternoon it drops. Deal Done. T-Mobile Arena. 26th August. 154 pounds. In a boxing ring.
The anger from the boxing community is both intense and vocal. This event is so repulsive that people pretend that the sport of boxing has any sanctity so that they can say that this fight damages it. How dare this be sanctioned! How dare these two take the limelight from boxers who weren’t even in the limelight to begin with. This is not a real fight. This will be bad for boxing, we don’t do mismatches and freak shows!
For the prideful and boastful MMA community this is brilliant. This is “them” against “us” – limited combat vs real fighting. How dare anyone question McGregor’s chances against one of the best boxers ever. Floyd is too old and too small. When he lands that left hand – that touch of death, the whole boxing community will eat their words. Everyone prepares themselves for 2 1/2 months of anarchy.
Stage 4 – The Press Tour
Let the dream selling begin. Four stops. Los Angeles, Toronto, New York, London. Shit-slinging and theatrics awaited everyone.
The tour went from peak Dave Chapelle to Amy Schumer on the entertainment scale by the third stop in Brooklyn. Both men set out on a comedic tour which ran out of ammo very quickly. Every sub-section of society apart from transgenders are offended. Both men are labelled a disgrace to their profession. McGregor’s the racist, Mayweather the homophobe. People wanted sport to be a form of escapism, like the stories of fighters don’t or shouldn’t mirror those of the everyday man.
“What happened to dignity and honour?” The newspapers cry — as if it ever existed in combat
You don’t know whether this is bloodsport or political discourse. Well in 2017 there isn’t much of a difference between the two.
The intrigue builds. Some disgruntled fans get on board, driven by race, tribalism and a desire to see their strongly held views vindicated. Each conference was scored like it was a high level prizefight – Team MMA claim that McGregor is in Floyd’s head, Team Boxing claim that McGregor is delusional and in over his head. This thing is big. Bigger than it should be. There is brief calm as both sides move to their training bases. The bloggers move from their keyboard.
Stage 5 – The Training Camp
The insiders are curious. Who’s going to train McGregor for his first professional fight? What sparring partners will he use?
But Conor is loyal, he’s unorthodox, he’s going to do things the way he has always done and shock the world. Same partners, same coaching set up. Just a referee and a retired loudmouth Italian-American fighter to clown on for his months of smack talking and rubbishing of King Conor’s chances.
The proverbial pugilistic motormouth Paulie Malignaggi is incensed when it dawns on him that it wasn’t his expert analysis that the McGregor camp wanted. Every training session is an Social Media photoshoot – enter the gym, pose with the rented Lamborghini, get ready for work, pose again, finish work, pose again.
But with Malignaggi we got video footage. That left hand actually works. Was it a knockdown? Does it really matter that Paulie was out of shape? Conor can actually box? So many questions!
The MMA community has even more hope. The odds dwindle. The boxing community scoffs. They prepare to cash in on the madness.
Meanwhile the only exercises Floyd Mayweather wants us to believe he is doing involve occasionally moving his arm to throw dollar bills in the air at his gentleman’s club. Forget a strict diet — Burger King is the meal of a true champion. Floyd can’t have anyone thinking he is actually taking this seriously. He needs to look as old as possible for those Pay Per View buys and gate receipts.
The MMA community feel like their guy is underestimated. Someone should tell Mayweather that he has struggled with southpaws..by not losing to them, or how he hasn’t seen anything like McGregor in a boxing ring before..because he has seen much better. McGregor wants 8 ounce gloves? His wish is Floyd’s command – because it makes a whole world of a difference of course.
Camp’s progress, the internet war of words continue, every celebrity wants to tell you how McGregor will shock the world or how Floyd will win because he is undefeated. If you don’t care about this spectacle, by now you are praying or it to end. If you are following Paulie Malignaggi on twitter, you are praying for him to shut up about the sparring sessions.
Stage 6 — It’s Showtime
Fight week is upon us. The mainstream media’s stance switches from the fight being a shameless money grab to the fight isn’t selling well enough as the arena isn’t sold out as usual.
Both fighters reach the Vegas strip in the zone. McGregor’s prediction goes from four rounds to two rounds and now to one. As his predictions bolden so does the confidence his loyal following has in him. Those odds have now gone from crazy to obscene. Boxing fans who are in the know begin to question their sanity — is this a fix, or are people really that stupid?
The MMA community are ready for the boxing world to eat their words. They can’t stand the arrogance or those writing their man off. “Come back on Sunday morning” the say.
A gossip piece makes the rounds and their confidence grows further. Floyd is distracted, he can’t be fully focused on the challenge in store. “McGregor’s got this”. The weigh in approaches and any semblance of rationality ceases. “He’s really going to do this people, mark my words”
Then it’s time for the main dance. Saturday evening. Once in a lifetime. Once in forever. It comes to this. Both sides begin to feel nerves. The boxing insiders briefly contemplate how they’d explain to their wives that they lost their savings betting on Mayweather, the Irish fear that this long held dream will not come to fruition.
By the time the first bell rings nobody knows what will happen, apart from once Floyd stops Conor by hitting him cleanly too often by accident, Paulie Malignaggi will still be complaining about that sparring session.
Step 7 – The Aftermath
The dust settles. Team boxing feels vindicated. “We told you so” they proudly proclaim. Floyd is scathed for damaging the sport further by the media for staging the shameless exhibition, but both winner and loser have hundreds of millions to shower themselves in. “He’s still a hell of a competitor” he says to McGregor – almost lovingly. McGregor to the delight of the boxing world is finally humbled.
Instead of licking their wounds, the MMA community enter damage control. This wasn’t a real fight, if it was a real fight Floyd would last 3 seconds – assuming that you can part him from his 12 feet bodyguards for that long. “It would be different in a cage” they proudly proclaim after spending months convincing themselves that an upset was possible in a boxing ring.
But above all, when it’s all said and done and people separate themselves from the hysteria, Paulie Malignaggi will still be complaining about the sparring sessions.
Mayweather vs McGregor — The Seven Stages of A Circus was originally published in sundaypuncher on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.