Saturday’s mega-bout between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor might be close. It also might not be. Mayweather is a 49-0 boxer, and McGregor is a mixed martial artist who’s never had a competitive boxing match in his life. Mayweather is the heavy betting favorite. If he falls to 49-1 all-time, it’ll be a stunner for the ages.
But even if you think the fight’s going to be suspenseful, there’s one thing you can take to the bank right now: The outcome is going to make a lot of people angry. Neither boxer is a hero, and the event is fighting perceptions — in corners big and small — that various things about it are not real. Conspiracy theories abound.
Theory: McGregor will use illegal moves and end/ruin the fight.
My guess is that McGregor will be beaten… Then he’ll get frustrated and just round kick TF outta Floyd
— UG na Rock Boom (@rukibobby) August 24, 2017
I can see Mcgregor saying fuck it during the fight and using his MMA moves on Mayweather.
— Tapia (@Luis_T100) August 20, 2017
Does McGregor still get paid if he decides to kick Mayweather?
— Lexi Arellano (@lexiwub) August 24, 2017
The UFC is McGregor’s primary fighting arena. It’s not that UFC fights don’t have rules. They do. You can’t eye-gouge, crotch-grab, hair-pull, fish-hook, or bite your opponent, among other outlawed acts that normal people would never do to one another. But kicking, elbowing, and kneeing your opponent? All good. Putting him in a chokehold? The literal goal of the fight. These things aren’t permitted in boxing, but if McGregor does them, he’ll spare himself getting beaten up and humiliated.
If McGregor were to kick Mayweather in the head, for instance, that would be the end of the fight. It would also turn the fight into something other than a boxing match, which would make the entire event something of a fraud. But it’s not going to happen, because McGregor stands to lose an outrageous sum of money if it does.
UFC president Dana White, who helped organize the fight, says McGregor is contractually forbidden from using MMA moves.
“There is no way that will happen. That is absolutely in the contract, number one.”
“Number two, this is a boxing match under the rules of the Nevada State Athletic Commission. When you talk about a guy like Floyd Mayweather, the lawsuit if that ever happened…”
“You all know how much Conor likes money. Conor would depart with a whole lot of money if that ever happened.”
This will remain a boxing bout. If McGregor loses, his fans will be insistent that if this had only been a real fight with real moves allowed, he’d have won.
Theory: McGregor’s been sandbagging to lower expectations.
In June, a video leaked of McGregor sparring in boxing gloves. He looked terrible, worrying fans that he’d get obliterated against Mayweather:
People telling me Mayweather will have his hands full trying to land on McGregor -STOP IT! I respect McGregor BUT i ain’t Floyd and i landed pic.twitter.com/gd4dFi3XUU
— Chris van Heerden (@TheHeat001) June 14, 2017
Mayweather’s trainer, Nate Jones, suggested McGregor’s session was staged:
“I think I’ve seen that sparring. First of all, like I said, I looked at it, but to me it looked (like) it’s a possibility it could be staged. We don’t fall for that, we prepare for anything. Please believe me, I looked at it and I came up with my opinion that it could have been for real but it could have been staged. I don’t know. His style is a different style from Floyd. I don’t want nobody messing with Floyd. He may be more difficult than Floyd’s gonna be for him. Styles make fights. He may give him a different look inside this ring when he’s sparring him than what Floyd’s gonna give him. We don’t take none of that light. That’s a different man. That man’s name does not start with Floyd Mayweather, so we’re not worried about that. We’re gonna train hard. ”
“I looked it and after a while I watched the whole entirety of it, but I know that it could be staged and that don’t mean anything. We’re not gonna take that lightly. That don’t mean nothing to us. I looked at it, but it don’t mean anything. We’re gonna train like never before. I don’t think Floyd looked at it cause he don’t do that. We’re not worried about that, we don’t worry about that. When you look bad, it don’t matter to us because they could be staged. He might get in the ring with somebody else and they could be staged, or it could be him. We’re just going to see what’s going to happen on August 26th when he’s lined up with the very best. We’ll see then.”
If McGregor wins, many are going to think he was putting on a show in that video. It’s hard to imagine a boxer looking that weak and then beating Mayweather without something more complicated being at play.
Theory: This entire fight is a hoax designed to get your money.
This is the theory that’s most flexible and suited to any outcome.
Both fighters have gotten good at looking like they hate the other:
Golfer Rory McIlroy, McGregor’s fellow Irishman, wonders how real that is:
Certainly that’s all I’ve done is follow the build up to this thing. Now that I’m off Twitter and social media, all I do is watch YouTube videos of Conor McGregor.
I’m intrigued. He talks a good game. If you just listen to his press conferences and what he says, you would think that this guy, he’s the one with the 50-0 boxing record. It’s amazing. I’m a big admirer of him. He talks about visualization and the law of attraction and all this stuff that he believes in it and he vocalizes it, and he has the courage to say what he thinks. I’m a believer in that stuff, and I’m a big advocate of that. And some of the stuff he does wouldn’t be my cup of tea, but he believes 100 percent in himself and he believes he’s going to go out there on Saturday night and shock the world.
I’m interested just to see how it all plays out, but I just fear that they do all this trash-talking and they go behind the scenes and they are having a laugh and thinking: I can’t believe we are talking all this public for a ride. We are all buying into it and they are like, can you believe these people believe this. I just hope it doesn’t turn into it and I hope it’s not in any way fixed.
It’s amazing, like we were talking about, imagine McGregor knocks him out in the first couple of rounds. They would get even more for the rematch. The rematch would be even bigger. So it’s just — I just don’t know what that zero on Mayweather’s record is worth, and that’s the thing. That’s his legacy. If he goes down and lies down for ten seconds at some point in that, you know, is that worth making an extra few 100 million? That’s sort of up to him.
Yeah, as you can see, I’m very knowledgeable on it. (Laughter) yeah, I’m interested about it. I’m intrigued. We’ll see how it goes.
If McGregor knocks out — or even just beats — Mayweather, some are going to think Mayweather let it happen so he could sell a redemption story ahead of a rematch.
If Mayweather does what he’s supposed to do and just grinds down McGregor over a 12-round win, it won’t quell the notion that they both knew this would happen all along. McGregor’s still getting his money, after all. And every time he claimed he’d knock Mayweather out early, he’ll just have been helping to line his own pockets.
That’s in addition to wondering whether the two men are friends having a chuckle about this entire thing when the cameras aren’t rolling.
No matter the outcome, conspiracy theories will run rampant.
If you think Mayweather is an unbeatable fighter who could never lose to a non-boxer in a million years, anything other than a knockout of McGregor could look suspect. Mayweather isn’t a knockout specialist in any circumstance, but he’d be accused of intentionally letting McGregor hang around until a judicial decision. The reason? So that McGregor could complain about an unfair ruling and demand another bout.
If McGregor does get knocked out, people will interpret it the same way. He’ll be leaving himself room to claim he was sick, that a punch caught him by surprise, or that people didn’t get to see the fight they paid for. For the people, McGregor will be in position to call for a rematch. More money will flow ahead of that hypothetical fight.
And if McGregor wins — as McIlroy alludes to — it could still be seen as a setup for another fight. Mayweather’s not going to stay stuck on 49 wins forever — not when a nice, round number is one victory away. And he’s not going out with a loss. Another fight is a virtual certainty, and one worth as much money as this one.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know a lot of viewers won’t be happy.