Following months of mainstream hysteria and exaggerated publicity, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will step inside a boxing ring on August 26, 2017, for one of combat sports' biggest mismatches in years. The bout -- a glorified exhibition match -- has arguably captured the imaginations of millions of casual sports fans because of its disconnection from reality.
Indeed, it is a fight that has little to do with actual fighting. It is entirely about the bottom line.
The matchup, announced on Wednesday afternoon, will be a 12-round boxing match to be held in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The combatants will wear 10 oz boxing gloves -- 6 oz heavier than those McGregor wears into the Octagon -- and will compete at 154 pounds. The event will air on Showtime PPV in collaboration with Mayweather Promotions, which will also be responsible for the show's undercard.
According to UFC President Dana White, who fielded questions during a media conference call following the announcement, Mayweather had specifically requested a pure boxing contest and contractually denied McGregor the freedom to use mixed martial arts moves such as throwing elbows or kicks. Any deviation from the contract will result hefty fines. "You all know how much Conor likes money. Conor would depart with a whole lot of money if that ever happened," said White.
Speaking of money, the high-profile affair will undoubtedly be a financial success for those involved, though that will be the result of the boisterous Irishman's marketing prowess rather than his actual boxing skills. McGregor's greatest asset lays in his ability to convince fans that he can knock Mayweather out. Whether he can actually defeat the 49-0 Mayweather is an insignificant detail, particularly when McGregor is already expected to make $100 million for showing up.
It is difficult to imagine another instance where a match between a complete boxing novice and one of the undefeated all-time greats could persuade fight fans to part with their hard-earned income as effectively as this particular bout. McGregor is supported by legions of fans who are convinced that he is destined to separate Mayweather from his senses and become boxing's anointed star with only one bout to his name. That this irrational reasoning has been able to take hold in combat sports is a testament to the Irishman's skill as a promoter. Despite McGregor being an amateur boxer who will likely need the help of a banana peel to send Mayweather to the canvas, he will undoubtedly manage to convince at least two million people to pay $100 per PPV to see it.
"I have my eyes on one thing right now, and that's Floyd Mayweather," McGregor said earlier this year. "I believe this is the first billion fight, so people have to pay for a billion-dollar fight."
THE FIGHT IS ON. pic.twitter.com/KhW0u3jRft- Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) June 14, 2017
Wednesday's quote-worthy conference call also highlighted the tactics Mayweather and company will use to promote the fight. Given that perception matters far more than the realistic outcome of the fight, Mayweather knows better than to bury his opponent before fans have had an opportunity to pay for the PPV. "This is a fight that Floyd is taking very, very seriously, because we all do know all it takes in boxing is one shot and he don't have to be a clean shot," Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe said during Wednesday's media conference call. "A guy with that kind of power, he can nick you and you can be buzzed. There's been a few times in fights in Floyd's career that he might have been buzzed in the fight and nobody never knew," he added.
Selling Mayweather as the aging veteran that can lose the fight at any given moment with a perfectly placed punch from a far younger opponent is smart strategy, if not exactly original. Mayweather has faced several power punchers in the past, including Canelo Alvarez, and made those elite fighters look foolish in front of millions. And yet, Mayweather Promotions is still selling people on the unknown factor, or even the chance to see Floyd Mayweather get knocked out cold.
"Floyd is 40 years old," Ellerbe explained on Wednesday. "He's been off for a minute. He's got to get his ass up and be prepared for Conor McGregor. Conor McGregor has been active, you know what I'm saying? He's been knocking guys out. And we'd be a bunch of damn fools to sit around and sleep on this and listen to all the bullsh*t that everybody sits around and talks."
While McGregor may be convinced he can defeat Mayweather, a loss is unlikely to hamper a potential return to the UFC. The reigning lightweight champion's legacy will be determined by his achievements within his own sport rather than his ability to manipulate fight fans en mass into paying to witness him box. It is for this reason that many, including Dana White, believe McGregor will return to defend his crown before the year's end.
"In the conversation that I had with him, he's fired up for this fight and he's excited to fight again and defend his title by the end of the year," White told Fox Sports. "Nothing is a guarantee. You can't be guaranteed anybody's ever going to fight again."
The day McGregor returns to the UFC will be the day the promotion wakes up from its current stupor. Until then, fight fans will have to contend with a so-called superfight that is about little more than the dollars and cents counted thereafter.