Nobody enjoyed their time on the road more than Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
Maybe in the end that was part of the problem.
The “world tour” designed to drum up hype for the pair’s August 26 boxing match wrapped up Friday in London the same way it began Tuesday in Los Angeles—with Mayweather and McGregor standing on stage screaming obscenities in each other’s faces.
After four press conferences in four days in four different cities, there wasn’t much left to do. We’d already seen everything these two showmen had to offer. In that way, the initial publicity push leading up to next month’s mega-bout in Las Vegas certainly didn’t disappoint.
But it also didn’t really surprise.
The verbal barbs between Mayweather and McGregor remained predictably lowbrow throughout, but—while chaos eternally loomed just off stage—their traveling circus ultimately came off as contrived. Even as they preened and prodded and called each other every nasty name they could think of, it was plain to see there was no real animosity here.
“He could have rode off into the sunset 49-0,” McGregor told the London crowd. “Instead, this is my first time in a boxing ring, and in six weeks I run boxing. How the f–k did they let me roll up in here? They got f–king greedy, that’s how.”
Mayweather just laughed in response.
Indeed, when they finally make it to the ring at T-Mobile Arena next month, we can rest assured the competitive fires will be fully stoked. But this? This was just marketing—with Mayweather and McGregor starring as partners in crime.
“You’re the student. I’m the f–king teacher,” Mayweather told McGregor during his time on the mic Friday. “August 26 I’m going to take you to school.”
Aside from a brief scuffle between their two camps at Thursday’s event in Brooklyn, the fighters never really touched each other during this junket. Near the end of his remarks in London, McGregor rubbed the top of Mayweather’s head with his palm, but the boxer just chuckled at the gesture.
And so it went on. And on. And on.
Through these four events, which routinely started late and just as often dragged in the middle, neither guy succeeded in provoking much of a response from the other. In the end, the vibe was more like a series of celebrity roasts than an airing of real grievances. The back-and-forth flame wars played like banter between the leads in an awkward buddy comedy more than two men embroiled in a blood feud.
As McGregor stalked around the stage in Toronto on Wednesday and implored the crowd to chant “F–k the Mayweathers,” Floyd and his team roared with laughter. When Mayweather tossed handfuls of cash in the air over McGregor’s head at the Barclay’s Center to show that he had money to burn or that he owned McGregor—or something like that—the Irishman used it as a photo op:
Even when McGregor strayed over lines of racial sensitivity and repeatedly harangued Mayweather to “Dance for me, boy,” the boxer and his entourage only grinned at each other like they knew it was coming. And conspiracy-minded fight fans immediately began to speculate: Maybe they did?
And really, Conor and Floyd have no real reason to be mad at each other.
Especially for McGregor, this fight represents the opportunity of a lifetime. After more than two years of rumor and conjecture, the cocksure mixed martial artist has finally landed the opponent who will set his family up for generations. McGregor has already said he could bank $100 million for taking on Mayweather—a notable pay increase from the reported $3 million purse he earned in his rematch with Nate Diaz at UFC 202.
“I get to quadruple my net worth for half a fight?” McGregor said in London. “Sign me up.”
Likewise, there was no other adversary in the conventional boxing landscape who could bank Mayweather as much money as McGregor. The greatest pugilist of his generation now has the chance to end his brief retirement and collect a hefty payday for what he surely expects will be a light night of work.
So, yeah, who can blame them if during all this nose-to-nose gum-bumping it occasionally felt as though they could barely keep straight faces.
Aside from Thursday’s train wreck in Brooklyn, the two fighters managed to mostly keep things from going off the rails. McGregor started on shaky footing in L.A. but quickly regained the form UFC fans have grown accustomed to from their lightweight champion since he burst on the scene in 2013.
Meanwhile, Mayweather consistently showed why he’s been a top draw in boxing for years.
This was two of combat sports’ best trash talkers working in tandem to promote an event that will make each of them hundreds of millions of dollars. Every time Mayweather called McGregor a “bitch” or an “eejit” and every time McGregor poked fun at Mayweather’s age, fashion sense or reported trouble with the IRS, they were really just stuffing money in each other’s pockets.
Most everything here was all in good fun.
You could see it on the face of Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, who—dressed to the nines nearly every step of the way—arguably laughed loudest at McGregor’s best lines.
You could see it in the Cheshire cat grin on UFC President Dana White—whose epic sunburn and thunderous introductions of McGregor were among the unsung stars of these events.
You could see it on the grimace of Showtime exec Stephen Espinoza, who, even during McGregor’s profane rants against him and his company, maintained an expression that said he’d sit there as long as it took to cash the checks from this pay-per-view.
And you could see it in the performances of Mayweather and McGregor themselves.
Credit these two men for going out there day after day to sell a grudge where none likely exists. With the bout itself expected to be a dominant victory for Mayweather, this fight had to be sold on the singular nature of the matchup and on doctoring-up some emotion.
Even if behind the scenes they’re laughing all the way to the bank.
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