Not since Chuck Liddell traveled to Japan to take part in a PRIDE Fighting Championships tournament in 2003 has the UFC allowed one of its stars to take part in an event promoted by another major fight organization.
That will change on Saturday night, Aug. 26 when UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor takes on Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match airing live on Showtime pay-per-view.
Now it probably seems like a no brainer why the UFC would allow McGregor to fight Mayweather considering all sides stand to reap the benefits of a massive revenue stream that will be generated by the fight. The UFC is hands off on the pay-per-view broadcast, but the promotion will still enjoy a percentage of the money generated by the fight not to mention McGregor potentially earning a nine-figure payday for the bout.
Still, McGregor is stepping into unknown territory where he will be a lopsided underdog to Mayweather, who enters the fight with a 49-0 record while being touted as one of the greatest boxers of all time. It doesn’t seem many analysts are giving McGregor a shot to win much less a chance to survive 12-rounds with Mayweather, so why did the UFC sign off on this fight?
“Conor McGregor wanted to do this and I’ve said it a million times … I’ve stood in the living room when his opponent pulled out, and there’s so much pressure on people when you’re making the kind of money that Conor McGregor makes, and people don’t want to make mistakes and ‘oh this is my brand’ and all this stuff the fans don’t want to hear about. Fans just want to see great fights,” White explained.
“Conor McGregor is that guy that when he’s staring down the barrel of ‘my opponent pulled out and now I’m going to have a fight a guy who’s stylistically supposed to be bad for me cause he’s a wrestler’ or whatever the deal might be, this kid doesn’t care.”
McGregor has stepped up to every challenge the UFC has thrown in front of him, including two fights against Nate Diaz last year that generated some of the biggest pay-per-view numbers in the history of the promotion.
White says that McGregor’s willingness to take on anybody at any time has put him in a different category than most of the other fighters on the UFC roster. Ultimately, White says McGregor wanted this fight with Mayweather so he felt obligated to do everything in his power to make it happen.
“This kid goes out and fights. He puts things on the line,” White said. When he did the [Nate] Diaz fight, he accepts the Diaz fight at 170-pounds, me and Lorenzo [Fertitta] both talk to him after he loses the fight and he says ‘I want him again and I want him at 170, I don’t want him at 155’. Lorenzo and I are saying to the kid, why are you doing this? You’re the 145-pound champion, why are you fighting a guy at 170? This make no sense. That’s what he wanted and that’s why people love this kid.
“Because if you’re a fight fan, that’s the guy you want to follow. That’s the guy you want to see fight. That’s the guy you’ll stay home on Saturday night for and put your money down for. I believe in this kid. I don’t doubt him anymore, what he’s capable of doing. This is the fight that he wanted so we’re making it happen.”
The opportunity in this fight goes beyond just a big paycheck because White knows for a fact that McGregor isn’t just stepping into the ring with Mayweather for the money.
He truly believes that McGregor is coming for Floyd’s head and will give it everything he’s got to make it happen during those 12 rounds.
“Here’s the thing — Floyd’s 40 years old, he hasn’t fought in almost two years. He traditionally doesn’t do well against southpaws. He’s undefeated but if you want to look at the kink in the armor, we look at southpaws. Conor is a southpaw,” White explained. “Conor is 27 years old, and Conor is a knockout artist. All the guys that thought Conor couldn’t hurt them, every time he touches guys, they fall.
“Conor told me this morning the McGregor clan has been taking over villages for the last 300 years and Floyd’s village is next.”
Of course, McGregor will be fighting an uphill battle going up against Mayweather in a boxing match, but White refuses to count him out because “The Notorious” has made him a believer throughout his UFC career.
“He’s the type of guy who absolutely 100-percent believes in himself, believes in his abilities,” White said. “Even in the Jose Aldo fight he was talking about knocking Jose Aldo out in the first round and everybody’s like, ‘oh that’s ridiculous,’ and the fight lasted 13-seconds.
“I stopped doubting Conor McGregor.”