Floyd “Money” Mayweather didn’t get his nickname by accident, while Conor McGregor has made it increasingly clear how he intends to leverage his star power into the biggest possible paydays. That explains why talk of a boxing match between the two hasn’t gone away, and it intensified Wednesday with comments Mayweather made on ESPN’s “First Take.”
“Only thing that I’m probably interested in is the Conor McGregor fight,” Mayweather said on the show. “I’m a businessman and it makes the most business sense, I think.”
Mayweather could almost certainly have a rematch with Manny Pacquiao anytime he wants, and he’d have a line of other big-name boxers, such as Gennady Golovkin, forming to take him on. However, the retired boxer clearly thinks that McGregor is the opponent most likely to drum up enough public interest to bring him the kind of paycheck that will entice him to put on the gloves again.
“We tried to make the Conor McGregor fight. They know what my number is,” Mayweather told the “First Take” panel. “My number was a guaranteed $100 million, that was my number. We’re the ‘A’ side, and I don’t really know how much money Conor McGregor has made. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t even made $10 million in a MMA bout.
“But we are willing to give him $15 million, and then we can talk about splitting the percentage, the back end percentage on pay-per-view. But of course, we’re the ‘A’ side. How can a guy talk about $20 or $30 million if he’s never even made $8 or $9 million?”
It is unclear exactly how much McGregor has made in total for his fights over the past year, all of which were huge draws for the UFC. He got a $3 million purse for his rematch against Nate Diaz at August’s UFC 202, a record for the company matched by Ronda Rousey in her loss to Amanda Nunes on Dec. 30 at UFC 207. McGregor’s purse for his lightweight title win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November remains undisclosed, as is how much he has made on percentages of the pay-per-view revenue for his fights, but it’s very possible those latter sums have been larger than his purses.
Mayweather made the point Wednesday that it’s only fair for him to demand $100 million, as he, unlike McGregor, has made that amount in multiple bouts. However, the Irishman has indicated in the past that, as very arguably the biggest star in all of combat sports these days, he should be the one making nine figures.
“Tell Floyd and Showtime, I’m coming. … I want $100 million cash to fight him under boxing rules because he’s afraid of a real fight,” McGregor said at a New York nightclub shortly after defeating Alvarez at Madison Square Garden. Previously, McGregor had claimed that Mayweather “needs” him to recapture public interest and thus he should be compensated accordingly.
“He’s talking $100 million — I’m also talking $100 million,” McGregor said in May. “He fights someone else in the boxing realm, and it’s like all of a sudden the pay rate goes from $100 million to $15 million. So he needs me.”
By saying that a McGregor fight was the only one he was “probably interested in,” Mayweather could have been tacitly acknowledging that point, and possibly giving some leverage away at the bargaining table. On the other hand, having made hundreds of millions of dollars while racking up a 49-0 record, Mayweather can simply choose to stay retired, while his UFC rival is very much hunting big game, so he can at least attempt to name his terms for a match.
One thing Mayweather made very clear is that he is ready to come out of retirement to face McGregor. “I’m saying right here on this show, Conor McGregor keeps telling everybody he wants the fight — let’s make it happen,” Mayweather said on ESPN.
McGregor did his part to fan the flames of the fight, not to mention bad blood between the two, by posting an image to Twitter on Wednesday of himself standing triumphantly over a prone boxer resembling Mayweather. He added the caption, “Call me C.J. Watson!”
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) January 11, 2017
The post was clearly meant rattle Mayweather, who reportedly got into a fight with a former girlfriend, Josie Harris, over text messages she had received from Watson, an NBA player. Mayweather wound up spending two months in jail for beating Harris.
“Everybody keeps talking about Conor McGregor,” the ex-boxer said Wednesday. “He’s blowing smoke up everybody’s [butt]. Dana White, the UFC — let’s make it happen. Bring him over to the boxing world, and I’ll show him what it’s like.”
Mayweather had used the “blowing smoke” line before, after news emerged in December that McGregor had gotten a boxing license in California. “He don’t really want to fight because I went to his boss,” Mayweather said of McGregor at the time. “He don’t really want to fight.”
As for White, he has repeatedly expressed skepticism about a fight between the two ever actually happening, but the UFC president all but called out Mayweather in late December, referring to comments the ex-boxer had made about intending to “slap the [expletive] out of McGregor.”
“[McGregor] would kick [Mayweather’s] head to another planet, then he’ll murder every one of his security guards,” White said. “He’s stepping way over if he thinks he’s gonna slap Conor. That’s hilarious.”
Some fight fans have found laughable the whole idea that Mayweather and McGregor would ever stop yapping and actually step into a ring against each other, but money talks, as well. If both fighters feel like they’re getting enough of it to make a bout worthwhile, it sounds like the much-discussed showdown could take place.