The fight was announced just a few days ago, and already, the question is becoming hackneyed, clichéd.
Floyd Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers of all-time, will fight UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor in a pay-per-view boxing bout that could gross in excess of $500 million.
And yet, repeatedly, people ask a variation of the same question:
• Is this fight good for boxing?
• Is this fight good for MMA?
• Is this fight bad for boxing?
• Is this fight bad for MMA?
The answer is easy: None of the above.
It’s a one-off event and whether it’s the greatest sporting event of all time or (more likely) a dreadful match from a competitive standpoint, it’s not going to impact the fortunes of either sport.
Combat sports do well when the fights the fans want to see are made. I don’t understand the interest in seeing a boxer fight a mixed martial artist, because if it’s a boxing match, the boxer wins easily and if it’s an MMA match, the MMA fighter would maul the boxer.
But people do want to see it, largely, I guess, because of the epic trash-talking skills possessed by Mayweather and McGregor, so kudos to Al Haymon, Leonard Ellerbe and Dana White for getting it done.
In particular, boxing promoters have had to deal with the question of whether the sport is dead. That question has been on the tips of the tongues of fans and media for decades, literally.
Yet, here it is, in the midst of a superb year. More than 5.7 million people tuned in to CBS in March to see Keith Thurman defeat Danny Garcia for the unified welterweight title. Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko put on one of the most memorable heavyweight bouts in recent history at Wembley Stadium in London, where 90,000 fans filled the soccer pitch and television ratings in the U.S. on both Showtime and HBO did very well.
A fight last month with nothing on the line but pride, and which most everyone expected would be a blowout, between Canelo Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., sold one million pay-per-views, set a T-Mobile Arena attendance record with a crowd of 20,510 and did a gate of more than $10 million.
On Saturday, there is a sensational rematch at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the unified light heavyweight title between Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev. Later this year, outstanding matches such as Alvarez versus Gennady Golovkin and Mikey Garcia against Adrien Broner are already booked.
Boxing is in a good place, and it will stay there as long as promoters continue to make the best fights and get away from the horrendous habit of pitting their fighters in mismatches. Thankfully, it’s been more of the former than the latter in 2017, and the fans responded.
The notion that the UFC in particular and MMA in general would suffer were Mayweather, as is widely expected, to drill McGregor is almost so short-sighted as to be laughable.
I struggle to understand the connection some make with one fight vis a vis the entire sport. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Mayweather wins every minute of every round and McGregor looks totally out of his element.
Would that make fans less interested in seeing the heated light heavyweight rivalry between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier? Or would it make them less interested in, say, Amanda Nunes-Valentina Shevchenko, Robbie Lawler-Donald Cerrone or Fabricio Werdum-Alistair Overeem?
Not a chance.
There are purists in each sport who hate the idea of seeing Mayweather and McGregor fight. I would much rather see Mayweather box Errol Spence Jr. and McGregor fight Tony Ferguson than I would see them fight each other.
It is what it is, though, and all you have to do if you don’t like it is not watch it.
It’s not, though, going to have any significant impact on either sport, or the people involved in it, other than to make Mayweather and McGregor extraordinarily rich.