In what feels like a current state of cutthroat entertainment, the vehicle known as the superfight seems to be evolving before our eyes.
Once upon a time, you would regularly hear UFC President Dana White – typically at a post-event press conference – having to shut down any talks of superfights or sabbaticals, no matter who the sitting champion was.
Former UFC lightweight champ B.J. Penn was famous for his post-fight proclamations to challenge men of multiple weight classes, which created headaches for White and the matchmakers as they tried to keep him satisfied. And of course, who could forget Anderson Silva and his quest to fight Roy Jones Jr. in a boxing ring?
Sure, the Zuffa-owned organization may have humored these types of fights to a certain extent, but officials seemed to have had a different kind of confidence and attitude toward them all together.
Now, in an age when Conor McGregor can have his first professional boxing match against Floyd Mayweather (and do gangbuster numbers at the boxing box office in the process), we find ourselves begrudgingly wondering: Is this something that we could seriously see again, much less in a cage?
Why it could happen
As previously eluded to, the current climate of the UFC is calling for attractions at almost any cost.
Despite boastful claims of record-breaking revenue for 2017 (in large part due to actions and events that took place outside of the octagon), the trend of low pay-per-view buys – coupled with the enthusiasm from the community overall – is enough to suggest otherwise. And with 2018 being a crucial contract year for the UFC’s current TV deal, Hail Mary matchmaking is not exactly out of the question.
Another factor to consider is that this matchup – as farcical as it may appear – is one of the few scenarios that meet the bang-for-buck requirements of all parties involved.
McGregor, who reported earned nearly $100 million for his boxing match with Mayweather last year, has not exactly shown his urgency in wanting to return to the octagon and defend his beloved title. If the Irishman is indeed holding out for another big paycheck, then an offer of this magnitude would surely get his attention.
Regardless of the demands of McGregor, one thing is clear: His price tag has gone up.
And with that likely making it harder for the UFC to sell McGregor on a lightweight title-unification bout for lesser money, then the ownership of leverage becomes the looming question. McGregor certainly has his share of it, but it is the boxer who, oddly enough, will have the most say whether or not this superfight happens.
How it could look
Like any logical mind would imagine, McGregor would have a clear advantage given that this would be contested under an MMA ruleset and not a boxing one.
As someone who has competed in both on an amateur level, I can tell you that the two combat sports feel very far apart.
In August, we saw the sweet science expose the alternate economy of an MMA striker when Mayweather and McGregor first met in the boxing ring. However, what is noteworthy, is that McGregor had a background in boxing.
Furthermore, at risk of stating the obvious, the training in MMA requires a fair share of striking time, something that – at its heart – translates to what McGregor was tasked to do against Mayweather in the ring.
Mayweather, meanwhile, would hypothetically be entering a sport that encompasses multiple martial arts – some that are worlds apart. And considering that Mayweather has probably never dawned a gi or laced up a pair of wrestling shoes, then I don’t foresee his chances being any better than James Toney and his attempted conquest at UFC 118.
In what was the first of its kind (at least under the Zuffa regime), we saw a big-name boxer cross over into the main stage of the octagon. From his training footage to his appearance at the check-in station, Toney didn’t seem to take his training too seriously.
The sad part is that it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway.
Toney, unfortunately for him, was set to face Randy Couture. A true sportsman and role model for all athletes alike, even Couture couldn’t help but smirk and salivate during his walk to the cage.
Don’t get me wrong: I know for a fact that both Couture and his camp took the threat of Toney very seriously, but all the more to my point: It was a drubbing.
After the briefest of standoffs, Couture immediately changed his level and shot in for a low single, securing Toney to the ground with ease. From there, the MMA legend was able to strike and advance position practically uncontested, getting his opponent to submit more than once as referee Mario Yamasaki failed to see or hear Toney’s verbal taps.
Although McGregor obviously doesn’t have the same wrestling acumen or style as Couture, the Irishman does have serviceable enough skills to take Mayweather to school.
Despite Mayweather displaying an excellent sense for frames and leverage when operating inside of the clinch, the tactics and terms he is accustom to in boxing does not translate well into MMA. Not only does Mayweather’s boxing sensibilities open him up to wrestling threats, but it would also expose him to strikes that he’s not used to seeing (like kicks). Should McGregor establish a position of dominance, then things could get ugly fast.
The overall consequences
Even if the projected outcome comes to fruition, a “win for the good guys” could ultimately end up backfiring in a multitude of ways.
As we were reminded recently by Valentina Shevchenko and Priscila Cachoeira, MMA carries some tangible cultural differences from boxing. And even though the broadness of that culture often includes unfair criticisms of MMA, it also brings common practices that this sport could benefit from, the least of which being throwing in the towel.
Even under an experienced eye, we have seen many contests allowed to continue much to the dismay of many. Should the right sequence of events happen inside of the cage, I’m not sure I would count on McGregor to go easy on his foe. And if Mayweather is to tap early in spite or out of pride, then the ignominious outcome would likely result in a disaster that only further fuels the tinfoil-hat talk of fight-fixing, as well as unfair comparisons to pro wrestling.
As far as the numbers go, the incentives are obvious.
Even contrarians like myself would flock to the site of this potential circus, paying hand over fist for what lies ahead. But how many PPV buys are we talking about here? And more importantly, would it be enough to make up for the damage done?
UFC 118 was the last time a boxer of note crossed over, and that PPV only did 535,000 buys, which doesn’t say much when you consider that the card was headlined by Penn – a consistent 500K draw during his prime tenor. Obviously, the numbers generated by McGregor – a man whose name shows up in four out of five of the UFC’s top-selling cards of all time – would dwarf it’s closest on-paper comparison.
The money made would also equate to more missed time for McGregor, a man who the UFC could use to close existing sales and storylines right about now.
The corporate approach of cutting costs and crunching numbers doesn’t seem to be helping the product that stormed the imagination of millions. Superfights, though giving us much needed hits of adrenaline, seemingly feel more and more like we’re just using community cheat codes for a video game. Short-sightedness is usually not the best way to pay bills, especially when our sport needs stories over superfights and contenders over carnivals.
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie
Read the full article here: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor? Why the cage is not the stage