The Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor megafight, which many think could approach the $600 million-plus revenue record set by Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao in 2015, actually was not that difficult to make once the talks turned serious.
That was the assertion from Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, UFC president Dana White and Stephen Espinoza, head of Showtime Sports, which will produce and distribute the Aug. 26 fight on Showtime PPV from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Hours after the deal for the 12-round fight at 154 pounds was announced on Wednesday, all three spoke to the media on a conference call, and by the tone of their voices, they sounded as though they would be willing to hold hands and sing songs together.
So were there any major points of contention in making a deal that will match Mayweather — one of boxing’s all-time greats who will end a 2½-year retirement at age 40 — with UFC superstar McGregor in what will be McGregor’s professional boxing debut?
“There really weren’t any,” White said. “It’s been one of the smoothest deals we’ve ever done.”
“It was one of the smoothest I’ve ever been involved in,” Espinoza said.
Ellerbe added, “I third that. This is really gonna be a lot of fun. I can’t wait to get started with this.”
There are still some details to be ironed out even though the deal is done. That includes determining the cost of the pay-per-view, ticket prices, the specific broadcast team and figuring out what kind of media tour the fighters will embark on, but all of that will be taken care of in the next week or so, they said.
“Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are such unique individuals,” White said. “It’s a fun fight. This isn’t some fight we went out to make or build. This thing built itself. The fans wanted to see this thing, the media went crazy for it and here we are.”
White initially was not in favor of having McGregor (21-3), a 28-year-old southpaw, cross over to boxing, but he eventually came around because of McGregor’s steadfast desire for the fight and because of the massive amount of money involved. McGregor had to have the UFC sign off on the bout because he is under contract to the company.
White said he expected negotiations to be difficult and was pleasantly surprised they were so smooth.
“It’s the right fight in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I thought it would be impossible to deal with Floyd Mayweather, Mayweather Promotions, [Mayweather adviser and principal negotiator] Al Haymon and Showtime.”
In the end, the deal was made with little pain on either side.
“It’s an event that got done so quickly because there was a spirit of collaboration,” Espinoza said. “It’s going to be a massive promotion.”
White lauded McGregor’s intense desire for the fight. Even though McGregor will make much more money for the bout than he has ever made in a UFC fight, White said it came down to McGregor’s competitive spirit.
“He’s fired up for this fight,” White said. “If you look at Conor and the reason this fight is so big and the reason he’s such a huge superstar, it’s because he will fight anybody, anywhere, any time. He will step in and fight Floyd Mayweather. He’ll fight anybody. That’s why people love him.
“This kid eats pressure like nobody I’ve ever seen. He’s stepping into Floyd’s world, and I’m really excited to see how he handles it that night and really excited to see his game plan.”
Even though Mayweather (49-0, 26 KOs) is a massive favorite, Ellerbe made the case for McGregor, talking about how his strength in MMA is his stand-up game and punching power.
“When Conor steps in there with his stand-up game, I’m very impressed,” Ellerbe said. “Even when he grazes them, it’s like, ‘Damn! He f—ed him up.’ He better not graze Floyd with one those punches. I’m a realist. Floyd is 40 years old. He’s been off for a minute. He needs to get himself up. Conor has been active and he’s been knocking guys out. We’d be damn fools to sleep on him. Floyd’s ass is getting out there running. He knows Conor is coming for him.
“[McGregor] can nick you and [Mayweather] can be buzzed. One thing about Conor McGregor is we know you got to pay him very close attention, because when he touches people, they fall out.”
Said White: “Is [McGregor] at the level of a Floyd Mayweather as far as boxing goes? No, but he’s a southpaw, and if you want to say there’s ever been a kink in the armor of Floyd Mayweather, he’s had it with southpaws, and if he gets hit [by McGregor], he will go. But will he be able to touch Floyd in a 12-round fight?”
Neither side would address the financial details of the bout because of a confidentiality clause in their agreement, although most assume Mayweather’s side is getting the lion’s share.
“Nobody is bummed out about the deal,” White said.
It might seem a stretch to think the fight will surpass the economic success of the long-awaited Mayweather-Pacquiao fight — which dramatically failed to live up to the hype — including a record 4.6 million pay-per-view buys, but they made the case that it could.
“This has a different kind of feel,” Ellerbe said. “This is more of a mainstream global event. This is something the fans want to see. [McGregor has] done a tremendous job promoting himself, and Dana has done a tremendous job promoting him, and he’s the biggest star in his sport. And we all know what Floyd brings to the table. The fans are the ones who demanded it.
“When the fans are demanding the fight, you got to figure it out and get it done. It’s a total different feel from the Pacquiao fight. It’s an unknown factor.”
“Yes, of course, why not,” Ellerbe said of the fight’s chances of reaching at least $500 million in revenue. “With Mayweather-Pacquiao, that was a fight the fans had been talking about for years. There’s not one place I go to or Floyd goes to or anyone affiliated or associated with Floyd Mayweather goes who doesn’t get asked, ‘Are you going to fight Conor McGregor?’ This is a very, very hot fight. This is a fight the fans want. This is going to be a tremendous event.”
Espinoza was closely involved in putting together Mayweather-Pacquiao and said he thinks Mayweather-McGregor could do better than that fight.
“We’re not only drawing fans from the universe of boxing fans or the universe of MMA fans, but this fight taps into the audience who doesn’t follow either sport,” he said. “It’s such a spectacle. People not interested in either of these guys are interested in this fight. That was untapped for Mayweather-Pacquiao.”