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Years of trash talk led to months of hype, which will all finally culminate in a grand Saturday night spectacle when Floyd Mayweather squares off against Conor McGregor at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The intrigue around this event goes far beyond boxing, though. If this fight was all about what will happen in the ring, there likely wouldn’t be much drama. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be entertainment value. When two showmen like Mayweather and McGregor occupy center stage, it’s difficult to look away.
We’ve brought together our panel of boxing and MMA experts—Jeremy Botter, Chad Dundas, Lyle Fitzsimmons, Kevin McRae and Jonathan Snowden—to give their thoughts on all the talking points ahead of the weekend’s festivities. The panel is unsurprisingly high on Mayweather’s chances, but there are a range of opinions on what we’ll see in the days leading up to the fight, just how badly Conor will lose and what’s next for both fighters.
Read on to see the B/R staff’s predictions on anything and everything Mayweather-McGregor.
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Jeremy Botter: Anyone who says anything other than Floyd Mayweather here is either a) really hoping that underdog betting slip cashes or b) part of Conor McGregor’s immediate family or training camp. Because, look, anything can happen in a fist fight, blah blah blah. But this is perhaps the greatest defensive boxer of all time—someone who is basically unhittable even by top-tier boxers—and he is facing a person literally making their boxing debut. Not just his pro debut. His debut, period. Unless Mayweather spaces mentally and gets caught (he won’t), this is a cakewalk. Mayweather by TKO, likely by Round 7.
Chad Dundas: I still think the only reasonable pick here is Mayweather by unanimous decision, though I’m coming around to the idea that McGregor may have his moments. If Conor’s southpaw power can be the game-changer in boxing it is in MMA, we might have a fight on our hands.
Lyle Fitzsimmons: Could the impossible happen? Yes. Will it happen? No. Though McGregor is the bigger, stronger and younger man, the chasm in boxing ability between he and Mayweather is simply too wide. The Notorious One may provide a spark or two early, but his inability to land cleanly while taking too many shots in return will ultimately be a deciding factor. Money grinds him down and gets the stoppage around the fight’s midway point—call it Round 6.
Kevin McRae: Lots of people with a vested financial interest in this fight are trying to convince you that somehow an MMA fighter with zero boxing rounds under his belt could be even competitive against one of the best technical fighters of all time. Don’t believe them. Mayweather wins this fight by an Andre Berto-like (Conor loses every round) unanimous decision.
Jonathan Snowden: Mayweather was the best boxer in the world for a decade. McGregor has never had a boxing match. And, while the UFC star has preternatural gifts, the experience deficit will be too much to overcome. Mayweather, TKO, Round 8.
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Botter: Boxing weigh-ins are somewhat dull affairs, but both of these men are born promoters. If a weigh-in scuffle will add pay-per-view buys, they’ll do it. I only hope it doesn’t devolve into the sort of embarrassing stuff we saw on their world tour earlier this summer.
Dundas: Only verbally. During the pair’s world tour press conferences, McGregor was contractually prohibited from touching Mayweather, and I wager that extends to the weigh-in. Neither guy will do anything that puts the fight at risk or causes them to lose any of their precious, precious purses to a fine.
Fitzsimmons: They pretty much have to, right? Given McGregor’s history of weigh-in drama, it’s no reach to assume that he’ll go all-in on pushing Mayweather’s buttons and forcing bigger, burlier men to jump in the middle to make sure they save it for the paying customers. Let’s just hope it doesn’t cross the line from contrived menace to an actual riot.
McRae: Sure they will. It seems, based on anecdotal looks at Ticketmaster and other ticket-dealing websites, that this fight has been a tougher sell than anticipated. You can expect something to draw headlines on sports websites and channels to hopefully drive sales of tickets and PPVs.
Snowden: Of course. These are the two greatest showmen in combat sports. More than that, they are businessmen. A brief scuffle will be best for business.
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Botter: This is a wash. McGregor is more wildly animated in his mid-fight shenanigans. But Floyd sitting there and calmly muttering “nope” or “nuh-uh” every time McGregor swings and misses? That’s more insulting by a wide margin, even though it’s not the kind of thing an audience will notice.
Dundas: McGregor. He’s got nothing to lose and a whole new audience of pay-per-view customers to introduce himself to in this fight. If anybody’s going to bring a little unexpected flair to the proceedings, it’s going to be him.
Fitzsimmons: He’s not the most likely winner in the ring, but you’ve got to consider McGregor a decent favorite when it comes to stirring things up. Whether it’s by recruiting some of Mayweather’s tormentors to join his posse or via some other method, it’ll probably be Conor’s night right up until the bell rings.
McRae: Conor will. He knows the deal here. He can yuk it up, talk all kinds of smack, do pretty much whatever he wants, lose every second of every round and walk out millions of dollars richer. He’s already won.
Snowden: Mayweather once excelled in this area. I’ll never forget him bringing out a real-life chicken as a stand-in or walking to the ring with Justin Bieber. But, as an older statesman, he’s kind of left those days behind. If there are going to be antics, it’s up to McGregor to provide them.
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Botter: No, Conor isn’t going to fight dirty. For all the nonsense that accompanies him outside the Octagon, he’s a professional sportsman when the fight starts. If you’re asking if Conor will try a head kick or a takedown or something along those lines, well, that’s an easy one. No.
Dundas: Not sure “dirty” is the way I’d put it, but McGregor will need to be unorthodox. As perhaps the greatest boxer of his generation, Mayweather is programmed to respond to conventional attacks the way conventional boxers do. McGregor should do everything he can to stifle that, be unpredictable and mess with Mayweather’s head.
Fitzsimmons: One man’s dirty is another man’s lifeline, so it’s natural to expect McGregor to try to go the same route most recently traveled by Marcos Maidana in his two fights with Mayweather. The Argentine was as competitive with TBE in 2014 as anyone has been in the last decade, because he was not hesitant to use elbows, forearms and whatever else to impose his will. McGregor would be silly not to follow suit.
McRae: Depends on what you define as dirty. Will he be aggressive in the clinches? Probably. But will he throw in an elbow or an attempted kimura? Nope. Robert Byrd is the referee, and he don’t play that. Neither guy will get away with much.
Snowden: McGregor will test the referee and bend boxing’s rules to their breaking point. And, like Bernard Hopkins, Mayweather is a tricky, dirty fighter on the inside. Expect lots of holding and hitting from Conor and plenty of sneaky elbows from Floyd. It’s going to be delightful.
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Botter: I actually sat down to try to forecast this a few days ago, and here’s what I came up with. If the fight goes the distance, I can see McGregor landing…20 punches max? And that’s if Floyd is feeling extra cocky and gives McGregor the chance to land a few clean shots. I don’t feel good about that prediction, by the way. It might be much lower.
Dundas: I don’t think Floyd is going to pitch a shutout. Conor will get a few licks in early. As the fight goes on, McGregor’s power will likely diminish and Mayweather will figure out what could be the MMA fighter’s limited arsenal. If Conor wants to make anything substantive happen, it will probably have to be in the first few rounds.
Fitzsimmons: Mayweather’s the kind of guy who can go years, it seems, without taking a knee-buckling sort of blow. And if skilled boxers can’t do it, there’s hardly reason to think a guy like McGregor will have any better luck. Oh sure, he may whack Floyd’s arms and rack his ribs, but it’d be a shock of the highest magnitude to see him send Mayweather anywhere close to the canvas.
McRae: There’s a temptation to say zero. That’s not going to happen, obviously. He’ll probably land a couple. Floyd might even allow things to become dramatic by overselling them, to steal some parlance from the WWE, but nothing of a game-changing variety will be landed.
Snowden: Conor is fast, young and an expert in the art of distance. I’m not one of the critics who believe he can’t land a punch. He fights the world’s toughest men in a literal cage for money. He’ll have something for Floyd, especially early in the fight when his style and approach are still a mystery.
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Botter: Depends on what you mean by “living up,” really. Will it be a raucous atmosphere whether you’re in the arena or at home or at a bar? Yes. Will it be a spectacle? Yes. But if you’re wondering if this will be a classic boxing fight for the ages, well, no. This is as uneven of a matchup as I can remember, and one of the guys is Floyd Mayweather, a man who has made me swear at least six times that I will never order another one of his fights again. Barring a wild knockout by McGregor, we’re in for a good Mayweathering here.
Dundas: I think it will live up to the hype as an incredible spectacle featuring two of the best self-promoters in all of sports. The overwhelming likelihood, however, is that the fight itself leaves people wondering what exactly they just spent $100 on.
Fitzsimmons: Perhaps I’m in the minority, but I think it will. The compelling needle will be buried in the red as the two men come to center ring for introductions, and it’ll remain that way for as long as McGregor stays vertical and willing. It’ll be hard to look away and possibly miss a spinning backfist or something similar. If you’re a boxing purist, you might hate it. But if entertainment is the goal, it’ll be a big win.
McRae: Nope. There’s really nothing witty or poignant to be said here. This fight is a cynical money grab, plain and simple. Buy it if you’d like. But understand what exactly it is you’re buying and that it comes with no warranty.
Snowden: I don’t think the fight will be boring. McGregor’s power will prevent that. Even if Mayweather is cruising to victory, there’s always the lingering question of how McGregor will respond. Will there be hijinks and shenanigans? We’ll be watching on the edge of our seats until the end to find out.
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Botter: I think the fight does at least 4.5 million pay-per-view buys, probably even 5 million. Which means Floyd will take home anywhere from $300-$450 million, and McGregor will make roughly $125-$150 million. That is going to help a whole lot when they decide it’s time to buy another 15 cars neither needs.
Dundas: I bet McGregor earns right around $100 million—and then gives something like 25 percent of it to the UFC for doing nothing but letting him sign the contract. Mayweather likely makes roughly three times that. Not a bad haul for either guy.
Fitzsimmons: Who’s paying more attention to Mayweather’s purse, him or the IRS? It seems a few hundred million dollars are about par for his fight-night course, and a pay-per-view windfall like this one won’t do anything to hurt the average. As for McGregor, he’ll probably come home with a good chunk of change, too, which will no doubt irritate those who chronically point to Hall of Famers who debuted for nickels.
McRae: So much of this will be determined by the final PPV numbers, and that’s largely a function of how many gullible people who will be grumbling the next morning are still out there in the wake of the disastrous Mayweather-Pacquiao fight two years ago. Pure conjecture? Floyd makes somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 million, while Conor pockets about $100 million.
Snowden: Mayweather will take home the largest share, just like a pirate captain. Whatever McGregor makes will be split with Dana White and the new corporate gangsters at the UFC. Both, suffice to say, will be wealthier when it’s all over than any of us can possibly imagine.
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Botter: I mean, if Conor knocks Floyd out, then yeah. For sure. We’re almost guaranteed to see a rematch if that happens. If Conor loses a clean decision, things get a bit more tricky. I’ve long said he’ll never fight in the UFC again, and I stand by that. My reporting over the years has revealed Conor to be a man greatly concerned about his long-term brain health, and $125 million means he’s accomplished both the “get in” and “get rich” portions of his game plan. The only thing that’s left? Get out.
But then I never counted on Paulie Malignaggi interjecting himself into the proceedings, either. Even if McGregor loses, I wouldn’t be opposed to a fight against Paulie. It’s not on my bucket list, but I’d watch.
Dundas: Conor, yes. Floyd, nah. The 40-year-old Mayweather came out of retirement to score one more giant payday for an easy night’s work. After this, I think he resumes his life of leisure. McGregor, on the other hand, is still only 29 years old and cares about his legacy only fractionally less than he likes money. After this bout, I think he’ll go back to the UFC and try to score some of the bigger prizes available to him there, hopefully with a larger audience in tow.
Fitzsimmons: In some form or another, yes. Floyd will probably ride off into the sunset with a triumph, but even a remotely respectable performance from McGregor gives the Irishman a chance to come back against second-tier suitors more than happy to play the B-side for a bracket-changing paycheck. Maybe Paulie Malignaggi will bring a contract with him to the pay-per-view podium.
McRae: Why do we have the sense that a Conor-Paulie Malignaggi match is somewhat inevitable after the dramatics (show or not) that occurred during the Notorious’ training camp? That honestly wouldn’t be a surprise. As for Floyd? So long as he steers clear of troubles with the tax man (which have knocked out plenty a good fighter), he should and will stay retired at 50-0.
Snowden: I believe Mayweather when he says he’s walking away. McGregor? He’ll be back. Fighters in their prime can never leave it all behind. It’s who they are, not just what they do.
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Gregory Payan/Associated Press
Botter: God, I sure hope not. Unless they have professional boxing careers already in the tank (Holly Holm and a few others) or unless they are a Diaz brother of the Nick or Nate persuasion, I’d like to be done with this. Artem Lobov claimed he’d “box the ears off” Malignaggi, per Peter Carroll of MMA Fighting, and I just…I can’t, you guys. I can’t. No mas. No. Mas.
Dundas: Probably not. I’ve spoken to nearly every promoter of this fight, and they all admitted it’s only happening because of the crush of fan interest and potential to make big money. We probably won’t see another opportunity like this for a long time. There would have to be another McGregor and another Mayweather, and neither sport is threatening to produce any more of those for a long while.
Fitzsimmons: Unless the bout is a absolute travesty, the answer is yes. Love Mayweather and McGregor or hate them, they may have opened a vein of new competitive moneymakers. It’s not ludicrous to think at least a few of Dana White’s Octagonal cadre would be willing to strut their stuff in the ring, and it’s no less logical to imagine a boxer or two will start calling out all fighters—boxing, UFC and otherwise—after big wins.
McRae: Can’t communicate this enough: please no. Just please, please no. This is a terrible concept. They’re different sports entirely. Hopefully this fight proves that and throws buckets of cold water on some of the more ridiculous intersport matchups that have been floated recently.
Snowden: If McGregor makes a good show of it, why not? More interesting, to me at least, is whether the UFC can lure a top boxer into giving MMA a try. Perhaps that, instead, will be the next big combat sports spectacle.