The War Report: Blood Money (Week 28, 2017)
Their opening act grew tired by its end but last Tuesday was a chance to see the premiere of an unabashed spectacle in sports, no less boxing. Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor brought the circus to Los Angeles first, dominated the mainstream media’s attention and ultimately distracted fans from a solid weekend of boxing ahead. Opinions of the fight aside, there was something to write about.
An announced crowd of around 11,000 filled the lower bowl of the Staples Center for a free event that was previously announced as “sold out” when everyone was still outside. The upper bowl wasn’t used, nor were the abnormal amount of luxury suites within the arena but that doesn’t really matter. Fans and media showed up in droves for the boxing press conference – an occasion dedicated to formality rather than entertainment – but that too was no matter because no one really knew what they showed up for. This was the first presser of the four-city world tour and, on an extremely hot day in Los Angeles, it was almost like you were ripping them off to see a free event in an air-conditioned arena. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. Even on 12-dollar beer day.
“They didn’t tell me nothing. They kind of set me up a little bit, just rolled me out there to stand on the stage for 10 minutes,” said McGregor in the media room after the press conference. McGregor relished some alone time on stage by dancing to the music for what seemed a long time before Floyd made his entrance. The UFC superstar was having fun and, as it turned out, he didn’t really know what was going on for this event either. He had a couple slick one-liners once Floyd had his time at the podium but Conor’s mic was then cut off. As he reminded everyone during his speech, Mayweather was the A-side of this fight and the cutting of his own cord was just one of many disadvantages McGregor is facing in this spectacle. How else could Mayweather say, “That’s right! Sit quiet, you little bitch!” without actually making him and looking cool? Not to mention, about 95% of the crowd was in favor of the Irishman and that’s no exaggeration.
It was actually the first time they met face-to-face and, in the first official stare-down, the two exchanged words for awhile. (Fun fact: While they were in a shouting contest, boxing manager Sam Watson tried to help the crowd by grabbing a microphone off the ground and holding it between Floyd and Conor to hear what they were saying. It was to no avail, however, as he probably picked up Conor’s dead mic.) Each fighter took about 20 minutes with the press after the mania. There, the crowd missed out on some better insight from the fighters but you get what you pay for. In hindsight, the presser was the most tempered of the four and many of the slick and not-so-slick one-liners that have derived from the tour didn’t really happen in L.A.
“There was many exchanges,” said McGregor about the jabbering Watson thought the people should hear. (The effort was appreciated.) “The main one was the gloves. Up on the stage, (Mayweather) was saying something. ‘We can do eight-ounce; we can do four-ounce.’ Well, hold on. You were crying that the gloves had to be 10-ounce and they couldn’t be gloves made from Mexico. They couldn’t be gloves made out of horsehair – I didn’t even know there was gloves made out of horsehair. We were only wearing gloves a couple years – I don’t even need gloves to have a fight. It was all just amusing to me, as it was going on. Then he was saying something about, ‘I’ll do MMA after. I’ll fight you MMA after.’ I was like, don’t be talking stuff you wouldn’t do. You would never step over into this game. So…but look, it’s all bu-…it’s, I can’t…I’m enjoying me self.”
McGregor, the current UFC lightweight champion (155 pounds), lived up to every expectation for a boxing writer covering him for the first time, any of which had certainly heard of him and had even seen his dominance in the Octagon. McGregor, 29, commanded the room with ease and turned what could’ve been a heated argument with Floyd Mayweather Sr. into a lighthearted back-and-forth (not without Conor confusing Senior with Junior and telling him to take the flip-flop out of his mouth, of course). McGregor’s presence was impressive. There’s a glow that very few fighters give off without trying and the UFC star had it. Like all of the greats, Mayweather has it, as well, but unlike his counterpart, McGregor is right in the thick of his uprise.
“I don’t mean to be disrespectful but this game is very easy. It’s a very easy game compared to my game,” said McGregor about boxing. He sees it as a limited form of fighting and, when compared to his sport, Conor is right but thinking it’s easy could be a rude awakening come August 26. There wasn’t much discussion about the technical breakdown of the fight. He predicted a knockout within four rounds, proclaimed he’d beat any boxer under 154 pounds and brilliantly laughed, “Someone’s O has got to go!”
Moments like that put everyone in the palm of his hand. UFC President Dana White pointed out to the media earlier what many mixed martial arts fans would tell you about Conor: Whatever he says seems to come true and, more importantly, he’s truly a great fighter in the sport. With the current cash cow of the UFC taking part in this venture and about to make between an estimated 50-to-100 million dollars, an interesting moment happened with White, once he was asked of the implications for the UFC after this fight, in terms of getting McGregor back to the Octagon – where money like that his unheard of. His ringing phone interrupted a good question by Gareth Davies (The Telegraph).
“I had a bunch of guys who use to work for us in the UFC and they made a bunch a money and they’re gone now,” said White, who recently was part of a group who sold the company for $4.2 billion. “You just don’t know. If (McGregor)’s going to come in and make this kind of money, he might never fight again but that’s part of the deal. This kid has done a lot for the sport. He’s done a lot for this company and this is the fight they wanted, so we’re going to give it to him. If this is the end of his career, then it is what it is.”
Like many MMA fans, White is optimistic about McGregor’s chances in the fight. You can’t say the same for boxing fans, who’ve been allured for many times by thought of a Mayweather opponent landing that one flush shot to make it interesting.
“I’m the first one to do it; you gotta give me that,” McGregor proclaimed proudly. For years, in boxing, the blueprint to beat Mayweather in the ring has been drawn, sold and ripped to shreds but McGregor doesn’t seem to be worried about it. Having polarized himself through his immense talent and dominance, he has been following a master plan similar to what Mayweather has done but never under conditions like this. When it comes to executing it, he’s already won, no matter what happens in the boxing ring, and he’ll get the blood money by merely showing up.