The first stop on the Mayweather-McGregor media tour of four cities in three countries this week took place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, where an estimated 20,000 witnessed a spectacle befitting the often over-the-top hype each fighter has generated in his respective discipline.
Mayweather, 40, is boxing’s undisputed reigning pound-for-pound king with a 49-0 record, including 26 knockouts, and 11 titles over five divisions. His last fight was Sept. 12, 2015, when he beat Andre Berto to match Rocky Marciano, also 49-0, for one of the most recognized benchmarks in boxing.
McGregor, 28, is 21-3 with 18 KOs in mixed martial arts and the only fighter in the history of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, MMA’s most successful sanctioning body, to hold two championship belts simultaneously.
“You can do whatever you want to do, you can scream for whoever you want to scream for, you shout for whoever you want to shout for,” said Mayweather, wearing a red, white and blue sweatshirt with the letters “TMT” — the acronym “The Money Team” — across his chest. “God don’t make mistakes, and God only made one thing perfect, and that’s my boxing record.”
Throughout the news conference, which lasted approximately half an hour, McGregor drew cheers for his criticism of Mayweather, taunting him for refusing to fight under MMA rules. Wearing a dark pinstripe suit with a white dress shirt and red tie, McGregor was the first fighter to arrive on stage, receiving hearty applause as he encouraged fans to rise out of their seats.
The ovation reached a crescendo when McGregor guaranteed Mayweather would be “unconscious” within four rounds of the bout to be fought at 154 pounds and confirmed earlier in the day for T-Mobile Arena. The site of the fight had been uncertain because the Big3 basketball championship originally was scheduled to take place there Aug. 26.
But the new three-one-three league founded by rapper Ice Cube agreed to move its title game to the MGM Grand thanks to a “generous offer,” freeing up T-Mobile for a 12-round fight some in the industry are forecasting will set records in both attendance and pay-per-view buys and revenue.
“There’s no other way about it,” said McGregor, introduced by UFC President Dana White. “His little legs, his little core, his little head. I’m going to knock him out inside four rounds, mark my words. What can I say? I’m a young, confident, happy man that’s worked extremely hard for this. I’m just up here embracing everything.”
McGregor has lost just once in his last 18 fights, that coming March 5, 2016, when Nate Diaz earned a submission with a rear naked choke. That blemish was not lost on Mayweather, whose lengthy diatribe included a reference to McGregor as “Mr. Tap Out.”
McGregor has not fought previously in a boxing match, but agreeing to this fight means a financial windfall unlike any in MMA. He’s expected to make $75 million, according to published reports that also have Mayweather earning at least $100 million and perhaps four times as much depending on other factors, most notably pay-per-view money.
In 2015, Forbes named Mayweather as the highest-paid athlete in the world, with total earnings estimated at $300 million, the majority of which came from his much-anticipated bout against Manny Pacquiao. Mayweather won via 12-round unanimous decision, and Pacquiao subsequently claimed he had a shoulder injury before the fight that had left him severely diminished.
The fight drew 4.6 million pay-per-view buys but was considered a letdown, in part because of Mayweather’s trademark defensive posture designed to win on points rather than power. His last win by knockout came in 2011, eight fights ago, over Victor Ortiz.
“Guess what? I’m an old man,” Mayweather said before glaring at a snickering McGregor. “I’m not even the same man I was 20 years ago. I’m not the same fighter I was 10 years ago. I’m not the same fighter I was five years ago. I’m not the same fighter I was two years ago.
“But I got enough to beat you. And we know Mr. Tap Out likes to quit. And you will wave that white flag because you can choose which way you want to go. I’m guaranteeing you this: You’re going out on your face, or you’re going out on your back. Now which way you want to go?”
The media tour’s other stops will be in Toronto, New York and London, the closest city to McGregor’s hometown of Dublin. Mayweather is a resident of Las Vegas and has been in the headlines recently for failing to pay his 2015 taxes, according to a notice of federal tax lien filed by the Internal Revenue Service.
The IRS claims Mayweather owes $22.2 million in taxes from 2015. Mayweather, according to Forbes, has filed a petition with U.S. Tax Court to forestall any action on those IRS-related liabilities until after the McGregor fight.
“I don’t fear him,” McGregor said. “I don’t fear his limited set of fighting. This is a limited set of rules that makes this half a fight, a quarter of a fight. This isn’t a true fight. If this was a true fight, it wouldn’t take one round.”