It's been a long and interesting year for UFC superstar Conor McGregor. Though he bested the seemingly invincible José Aldo late last year, he technically started 2016 on a high note, silencing his biggest critics with the 13-second KO. That was until he lost by stunning upset to Nate Diaz three months later, which was followed by a fake retirement announcement over Twitter, which was then followed by a very real decision to have him pulled off UFC 200. It was then that the rumor mill concerning a potential crossover clash with boxing kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. began churning.
Rumors of the showdown first appeared in May of this year, exactly a day after the 1-year anniversary of the notoriously disappointing "Fight of the Century" between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The first publication to run the story was The Sun, a British tabloid that too often takes hearsay opinions as facts, and most in the media treated the news as such. But when the horse himself began saying the fight was "possible", the public started listening. Trainer and father Mayweather Sr. added further fuel to the fire by saying a 50th fight against "some kind of MMA fighter" was in the works, and McGregor (being McGregor) threw much of the fight world into hysteria when he created a mock poster of the showdown and shared it on social media.
Now, we all know what actually happened instead. McGregor went on to avenge his loss against Diaz, and just this last weekend KO'd the formidable Eddie Alvarez, making the Irishman the first UFC fighter to hold belts in two different weight divisions simultaneously. Judging by the article wildfire that has been published as a result, it's safe to say that Conor McGregor is the biggest thing going on in fighting sports. Naturally, speculation will arise as to what his next big thing might be. For some insiders, that next big thing is still crossing over against Mayweather, but is it really a viable possibility?
Here's what we do know. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is most likely going to come out of retirement and compete professionally at least one more time. The most telling evidence is when Mayweather Productions filed trademarks for "TMT 50" and "TBE 50" with the United States Patent and Trademark Office back in May, not-so-coincidentally matching the infamous acronyms for Mayweather's self-label of "The Best Ever", and his entourage moniker of "The Money Team." Match that with "50" being the number of career wins should his hand be raised in a return fight, and the writing on the wall seems more obvious. Then add in the recent picture of the former champ back in sparring gear, and the least we can say is that it seems likely he'll fight someone soon. Who that someone is is another question.
There have been a number of opponents thrown around as a dance partner for a Mayweather comeback. Welterweight champ Danny Garcia was speculated as a front-runner, as was another welterweight champ in Keith Thurman, though it appears the two will likely face one another instead. There is of course still speculation of a rematch with "Fight of the Century" rival Manny Pacquiao, who invited the retired pound-for-pound champ to his most recent bout against Jesse Vargas, and sources have reported a hotel-room discussion taking place after the Filipino's win. Given the lingering public distaste from their first encounter, however, there may be more hesitation a second time around.
Another fighter supposedly looking to throw their name in the hat is none other than Conor Mcgregor. On a Fox Sports segment, former UFC contender Chael Sonnen made allusions that McGregor will be wholeheartedly targeting a Mayweather matchup as his next endeavor.
"We're only as good as the information we get, but Conor is telling people privately, he hasn't gone public with it yet, but he's saying, 'Look, with a win here tonight should I beat Eddie (Alvarez), I'm going to take some time off and do everything I can to get the boxing match with Floyd Mayweather,'" Sonnen said. "Allegedly, now and again, the only person that can sign off on this contractually is Dana White to come in and co-promote. Allegedly, rumor, Dana White is a little bit open to the idea to at least hearing what it is he wants to do instead of having a closed door. So leave the speculation at that. I happen to think there's some legs to that myself."
As to how strong the legs are in that theory, we once again go back to what we know. What we know is that the UFC president initially stood against the rumors, calling them nothing more than "just a tabloid story". Over time, however, it seems as though his stance may have softened.
First was an impromptu street interview where the White began by denying all possibilities that the fight would happen, but finished by saying that if it did happen, there would be "kicks, punches and elbows" involved. He reiterated this sentiment when he appeared on FS1 with Skip Bayless, and expanded it a bit further by stating he would "bless" the matchup should negotiations become serious. The most recent update occurred just last weekend when White spoke on the Jim Rome show, and recounted his time in New York, most specifically a run-in with one of Mayweather's close associates.
"50 Cent is in the other room. He and I start talking last night, and he's like, 'What's up with your boy? Is he going to fight Floyd?' I'm like, 'My boy? Who? Conor?' And he's like 'Yeah'. I'm like, 'Floyd's never going to take that.' He's like, 'Dana, Floyd wants that fight. Floyd will take that fight.' I said, 'I'll tell you what, you tell Floyd to call me, and if he's serious about this, give me a call,'" said White.
As to whether or not Mayweather will make that call, it's unclear. Recent news reports suggest that the negotiation door on that fight has closed for the Money camp, saying to FightHype.com, "I tried to make the fight happen between me and Conor McGregor. We weren't able to make the fight happen, so we must move on."
But Mayweather also once retired back in 2009 only to take ten more fights afterwards, and by all indicators is coming out of yet another retirement, so clearly his actions don't always match his words. In a later interview with TMZ this past September, while Mayweather didn't give concrete answers as to whether or not the superfight fight was possible, it also didn't feel as if he's completely moved on either.
"For a couple more bucks, you just don't know," Mayweather said, when asked if he would come out of retirement. When asked specifically about the fight with McGregor, he gave a non-committal "I just don't know."
So after reviewing all the evidence thus far, will the super-fight happen? Not likely. Should all involved parties get on the same page of just beginning the negotiations process, there are still a number of logistical nightmares to overcome.
First are the formalities of each respective sport. Which rules do they use? MMA? Boxing? A hybrid of both? During interviews, White appeared more comfortable with the prospects of the matchup should other strikes be allowed, namely kicks and elbows, but would disallow grappling or ground game tactics for Mayweather's sake. It's doubtful that the boxing star would agree to anything but a pure boxing match, however, and going halfway in on the rules could also present another set of issues. If some rules are taken from one sport and some from another, will that affect regulations and medical standards with the athletic commission? Which commission would be used in the first place? Will a new one need to be created? Then there are the promotional issues. Which promoter leads? Which network has broadcasting rights? Who sits at the commentator's table? The list goes on.
Then finally, there are the people involved.
Knowing Mayweather's CEO mentality, it's unlikely for him to take any sort of concession on anything. Because Dana White is somewhat the same way, negotiations would probably encounter a number of early standstills, and ultimately go nowhere.
But what we are also seeing now is once seemingly unbendable attitudes begin to bend, and words that many thought to be never said have been said, so who knows? Could the fight come off? Crazier things have happened before.