Following four days of grandiose pageantry, ostentatious extravagance, tasteless entertainment and unabashed egotistical exposure, the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor world press tour has mercifully come to an end.
Over the course of four consecutive days — each in a different city, including international stops in London and Toronto — Mayweather and McGregor hurled vulgar slurs in front of thousands of eager fans. They flaunted their affluence, raved about $100 million paychecks and boasted about their accomplishments. While much of this was typical of the two megastar athletes who have woven excess into their personal brand, it was an awkward, if not downright painful experience at times — and one that raises questions about whether we’ve already witnessed the the defining moments of this combat sports crossover.
Billed as “The Money Fight,” the McGregor-Mayweather event is undeniably a rare spectacle between two of the most successful fighters in their separate sports. While such encounters are bound to pique interest and capture the imagination, this interest does nothing to mask their fundamental flaw: that they provide little genuine rivalry and sports competitiveness.
McGregor’s resume includes UFC titles in two separate weight divisions, a fact that is unlikely to benefit him in this unique encounter. On Aug. 26, the Irishman will step into a boxing ring for the first time and attempt to achieve what 49 other boxers promised, yet ultimately failed to do. And since McGregor does not have a single boxing match to his name, it is hardly believable that Mayweather has met his match.
Unable to hide the extent of this glorified mismatch, McGregor and Mayweather made up for it with exaggerated entertainment and their bizarre contrast of characters. It was all they had to offer in exchange for guaranteeing your $99 investment into the PPV. Fortunately for Showtime, McGregor was willing to do the heavy lifting for the majority of the press tour and gave separate, unfiltered performances in each of the four cities on the tour. His efforts likely cemented an already heavily-trending Pay-Per-View.
“He is a fascinating individual,” Showtime Sports executive Stephen Espinoza said at the London media scrum, despite being called a “weasel” by McGregor hours earlier. “He’s very talented as a fighter, but probably up there as one of the top two-three most quotable, most charismatic athletes. You really put him on the same caliber as The Rock. It’s hard to say Ali because he’s almost a mythical figure. But, his ability to command a stage, to improvise, to be funny, to be charming and some points offensive. He is a true performer. It’s a skill that cannot be learned.”
While McGregor’s quick wit produced some of the most noteworthy moments of the entire tour, it also gave us some of the more controversial moments, including an arguably racial comments directed at African-Americans. When asked who would win between himself and Sylvester Stallone’s character from Rocky III, McGregor responded: “That’s the one where he had that celebrity gym isn’t it? With the dancing monkeys in the gym and all.” This led many to speculate whether the Irishman was referring to a scene where Rocky enters a gym full of black people. Mayweather later said that McGregor “crossed the line” with his “totally disrespectful” comment: “I don’t like the fact that he called blacks monkeys. He is losing a lot of fans by doing that.”
Offered a chance to defend himself, McGregor continued to spiral into a public relations nightmare. When asked whether he considered the comments to be racially-charged, the UFC champ responded that he cannot be a racist because he is “half-black from the bellybutton down.” He later added that claims that he is a racist are “f***ing ridiculous” but also acknowledged that his comments “didn’t really hit right. I’m just gonna stay where it is and leave it out. I know who I am as a person. I think that most realistic people can look and know.”
Despite the well-publicized missteps, the Mayweather-McGregor circus rolled into its final stop at the O2 Arena in London, where homophobia and misogyny took centre stage after Floyd used ugly slurs to describe McGregor.
“Yeah, we’re going to talk about this p-ssy,” Mayweather said. “You punk, you f—-t, you ho.”
Having hit the trifecta of controversial societal topics, the press tour mercifully came to an end on Friday. If lowbrow entertainment was the goal, then McGregor and Mayweather achieved it. And yet, even with McGregor’s flashes of brilliance and comedy, the tour went two days too long. Following a mediocre start in Los Angeles, the promotion reached a peak in Toronto, where 16,000 gathered at the Budweiser stage to witness the icons at their best. It should have ended in Canada.
Instead, we were forced to endure an additional (and entirely unnecessary) 48 hours worth of stops in Brooklyn and London, where their exchanges became stale, repetitive and filled with problematic statements. It did little to promote the fight and even less to sell it as a competitive one. While McGregor’s confidence in himself is as convincing as it is contagious, it remains difficult to believe that the UFC champion will not be outclassed in August.
If entertainment is all this clash of worlds promised, and both McGregor and Mayweather have already played their respective hands over the course of a four-day World Tour, it begs the question: Is there anything left to look forward to?