There are times in sports where there are easy comparisons between a “mainstream” sports story or rivalry and the WWE. Then there is Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor. As I write this, I imagine Vince McMahon sitting back watching footage of the last few days of press conference and news stories and being angry that this spectacle is not his and isn’t happening in a WWE ring. If ever there was a sports story, game, fight, match, or rivalry that warranted Vince’s unique brand of “sports entertainment”, this is it. One need only think of the fact that Mayweather has already appeared in WWE at it’s annual spectacular, Wrestlemania and that Conor McGregor has off and on engaged in trading shots on social media with WWE superstars to see how this match could very easily be taking place in Vince’s squared circle. That’s even without WWE’s obvious overtures to Conor to join them at the end of his UFC run. Even without (to our knowledge) Vince’s involvement, this fight has already tapped into some of the oldest and most well-worn tropes of WWE.
The Trash Talk
There haven’t been many occasions in the past where one guy repeatedly baited another in WWE for a considerable length of time without a response. The only one I can think of that comes close is Shawn Michaels attempts to lure the Undertaker into a rematch at WrestleMania 26 after losing to Taker the year prior. Shawn called out Undertaker at the 2009 Slammy Awards claiming he could beat the Undertaker in a rematch. Undertaker refused Shawn’s request leading to Shawn entering the Royal Rumble with the goal of winning and challenging Undertaker at Wrestlemania for the World Heavyweight Championship. Shawn ultimately loses the Rumble but keeps poking the bear, trying to get himself a match with Taker. Inevitably, Shawn interferes in the Elimination Chamber match and costs Undertaker the World Heavyweight Championship. This ends up being the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Undertaker accepts the match continuing the build to an excellent rematch between them at Mania 26.
Similarly, McGregor has been barking up Floyd Mayweather’s tree (PAUSE.) for just about two years. In 2015, McGregor made a statement about being willing to fight Mayweather. It took six months for Mayweather to respond, but McGregor shot back less than 24 hours after Mayweather’s response. This eventually led to a war of words on social media for the better part of a year. Now here we are, less than six weeks away from Mayweather vs McGregor in a boxing match. The trash talk has only intensified in the last few weeks in ways that remind wrestling fans of promo battles between The Rock and Stone Cold or HHH and The Rock or Stone Cold and HHH. Granted, without the restriction of being on USA or one of the broadcast networks, the Floyd Conor trash talk has been much more.. colorful and divisive. It’s hard to tell who is face and who is heel in this situation, but we will get to that shortly. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the trash talk and hope it leads to the eventual “go-home” show pull-apart brawl.
Welcome to My World
We have seen this before. Whether it’s Shawn Michaels entering “The Devil’s Playground” that is Hell in a Cell or Bart Gunn stepping into a boxing ring with Butterbean or the latter stages of the Undertaker Lesnar feud where more and more MMA-style fighting was incorporated – WWE has long had an affinity for taking one superstar and pairing them off with someone else in a match, environment or fighting style that they are relatively unfamiliar with. Think anyone vs Mankind in a Boiler Room match, anyone vs Kane in an Inferno match, anyone vs an ECW original in an Extreme Rules or Hardcore match.
It is a simple yet engaging story to tell. Two guys build up a rivalry and then one guy, usually the heel, convinces the other to take him on in his own match or fighting style. In this case, Conor challenged Floyd to a match in Floyd’s own specialty, boxing. You know boxing, where Floyd Mayweather is undefeated at an impressive 49-0. We will have to wait and see if Floyd can avoid the fate of some of his WWE counterparts before him and succeed in his own specialty. Now, most obviously, this is not WWE and thus the result of this fight should be legitimate which would indicate a likely Mayweather win. But with the circus going on around this and the potential for a trilogy if Floyd loses, who knows what could happen when Conor steps into Floyd’s yard.
This is a touchy subject. But let’s be clear. Race has been an intertwined part of this story since day one. Take away the differences in their specialties and what you basically have are two sides of the same coin – equally arrogant and dismissive of challengers, equally abrasive in their approach to media and the stories that follow them – Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor are essentially the same person with the core difference being one is African-American and one is Irish. And no, not like Hornswoggle was an Irish leprechaun in WWE, or like the guys said on the pod, a white Boston athlete that can be tangentially connected to some Irish heritage. The problem with this pops up every time Conor refers to Floyd as boy and asks him to “dance for me”. Let’s not even begin to broach the “dancing monkeys in the gym” comment. I will say this, Conor is a pest of the highest order. He keeps tapping away at that same point over and over again. Floyd doesn’t do himself any favors, using homophobic slurs in reference to Conor, because, again, who is the face and who is the heel in this match.
The Face/Heel Dynamic
Let me begin with the facts. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is an asshole. Not just any, but probably an asshole that other assholes look up to and aspire to be. Likewise, McGregor is an asshole. So, who takes the role of heel and face in such a matchup – when in doubt, we will call the racist guy the heel in this situation. It makes sense beyond the race aspect of the build as well. Conor has been the aggressor for most of the leadup to this fight. Conor has taken his douchebag game 10 levels up in the last few weeks. From the suits, to the dancing around Floyd during the latter’s entrance, to all of the racist comments, Conor has been the equivalent of a Super Saiyan 4 prick. The problem with Conor being heel is that Mayweather has played that role in almost all of his fights for his entire career – one might even say that Conor is squarely parked on Mayweather’s heel corner. How do you take the longest-tenured heel in boxing (consider him the flipside of John Cena for the last 15 years) and make him the sympathetic face in a feud? Truth is, you don’t. The truth is you let Floyd be Floyd and let the chips fall where they may.
The uncomfortable truth is that this fight will likely end up with support being based on one of the following two areas: boxing purists vs boxing non-purists and the racial divide. Boxing purists, despite their on-again off-again disdain of Floyd will be surely be pulling for Floyd because none of them wants this loud-mouthed MMA fighter to come in and defeat an undefeated fighter – even if it is Floyd. Boxing non-purists (aka casual fans who are not really boxing fans but are interested in this fight) probably won’t have a dog in the race but may just support Conor for the chaos that could ensue and for the possibility of getting a trilogy out of the deal. As for the racial divide, well look at OJ, look at R. Kelly etc. we know where Floyd’s support will come from. On the flipside, the old boys club will naturally support Conor. These are not racist statements, these are facts. Don’t at me.
Like any good game, fight, match, series or rivalry, the most-desired outcome of the first engagement is often the one that leads to more. Despite the increased inevitability of the NBA Finals in the last three seasons, basketball fans have generally enjoyed the Cavs-Warriors trilogy. The first outcome, a Warriors win against a Cavs team hampered by injuries to two of its big three, left fans wanting more. The second outcome, a Cavs win potentially due to Draymond Green being a moron and Steph’s knee/ankle situation led to the desire for a rubber match to determine who was truly better. Likewise, for some people the only outcome they want is the one that most likely leads them to more in the series. So what are the best ways to get to a Mayweather-McGregor trilogy? I’m glad you asked.
Any McGregor Win
This is the most obvious path to a rematch and potentially a trilogy. Any which way this fight ends with a victorious McGregor is a path to a rematch – one that Floyd would most likely win. This can take any shape or form – a decisive McGregor win, a close McGregor win, a McGregor win on the scorecards – it doesn’t matter how this happens. One imagines that a McGregor win will automatically lead to Floyd demanding a rematch. Whether that be because it was a fluke, a manipulation of the rules in some way – Floyd will have a reason and the money will demand a rematch.
A Close Mayweather Win
I see a lot of conversations online that make it seem like Mayweather will just knock McGregor out. When you examine Floyd’s record, he has won 26 of his 49 fights by KO. Now, while Floyd has won his fair share of fights by TKO, he is by no means a knockout artist. This would mean that a Floyd win is equally likely to be via KO or decision. If Floyd wins by decision, McGregor could then claim that he hung in there with Floyd and is capable of beating him if given another shot. This is especially so if it’s not by unanimous decision. McGregor, being the definitive heel in this scenario, could also claim that the scorer’s table were against him because he is not a boxer by trade and thus was cheated out of a rightful win thus prompting his desire for a rematch. In this scenario, there is no guarantee that Floyd gives him a rematch. The money may eventually lead there, but there is no guarantee.
The “Schmoz” Finish
If you are a wrestling fan, you may be familiar with what is known as a “schmoz” finish. Any match that ends with a disqualification, interference, a ring collapse, a countout or essentially anything that isn’t a pin or submission is known as a schmoz. What would be the equivalent of a schmoz in this instance? Come on, we have all thought about it on some level at this point. A good chunk of the audience for this fight will be waiting to see how long Conor McGregor can go without resorting to muscle memory and kneeing the holy hell out of Floyd. This would result in a DQ, which would result in a Floyd win, which would result in a McGregor demand for a rematch in which he vows to not resort to the same tactic. In this instance Floyd doesn’t quite prove that he can beat McGregor, McGregor doesn’t quite prove he can hang with Floyd and actually box and the audience doesn’t know if the better fighter has won or not. Out of all the scenarios, this one has the most direct and obvious path to the rematch because all parties can claim to be slighted in some way. (This can get sketchy with the fans as there will be a subset that demands refunds for not having gotten what they paid for.) But overall, this would be the most WWE method to get to (and probably the easiest method to guarantee) a rematch between these two down the road.
At this specific moment in time, I am torn between whether this match will be a Floyd win or a schmoz but I am definitely leaning toward any scenario in which Floyd gets the W. I’m not a boxing purist, hell, I’m not even a boxing fan in general. But what I know of Floyd is that he is the type of fighter that is great at adjusting to what his opponent does well and boxes a great defensive style. So despite Conor’s slight height and reach advantage, given Floyd’s record, experience and dominance in boxing I can’t imagine a scenario in which Conor wins. As a wrestling fan, and a fan of a controversial story, I am probably going to end up rooting for a Conor DQ due to him reverting to MMA and KO-ing Floyd via a knee strike or kick. It is the most WWE approach to the whole thing, and I am considering that Cardo those may have been right on the podcast in saying that there is no way McGregor legitimately lasts the whole fight (PAUSE.) without reverting to muscle memory.
In the meantime, there are roughly six more weeks until we get this matchup and we get to see what Vince and his crew put together for this fight. Let the spectacle continue.