Forget Floyd Mayweather, UFC 213 needs Conor McGregor to step up and fight now
It's been a fun public negotiation, but Dana White needs to put McGregor back in the Octagon
The most blatant money grab in combat sports took one step closer to becoming reality on Wednesday, when UFC president Dana White and Conor McGregorfor the lightweight champion's desired fall boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.
Or so it seems. Outside of White's peculiar 180 on the topic in recent months, the biggest hurdle that still must be overcome hasn't actually taken place. It's the reason why White consistently adds an addendum to his weekly updates with phrases like "if it happens at all."
For how much this fight has been endlessly talked about in the two years since McGregor first starting running his mouth about it, all negotiations have been done through the media. Both sides have yet to actually sit down and discuss. It's a strong enough warning sign when you consider the proposed month of September is just four months away and White has threatened the fight must happen in 2017 or not at all.
The idea of negotiations magically running smoothly might be a bit of a fantasy considering one could argue Mayweather's business victories matter more to him than his unbeaten success inside the ring. There's also that, you know, "elephant in the room" that can't be ignored either: McGregor, the biggest star in MMA, competing over his head in a boxing match is not a smart gamble financially for UFC.
That's why UFC has never needed McGregor more than it does now with a gaping hole currently atop the marquee for its UFC 213 card on July 8. A card which has become an annual Super Bowl card of sorts during International Fight Week. But more on that in a minute.
Yes, there's a chance cooler heads will prevail considering the absurd piles of cash at stake in Mayweather-McGregor (and the fact that the general public knows full well the odds against McGregor even being competitive, and yet is still eager to throw money at it). For that reason, the carnival fight could become the greatest con job pay-per-view has ever seen, with the heist being executed in plain sight.
But there's just as great a chance this entire spectacle of simulated public negotiation has been nothing more than a calculated charade. Allow me to paint a possible scenario here.
McGregor, knowing full well his value after setting PPV records and helping UFC obtain an almost unthinkable $4 billion evaluation for last summer's sale, desired the kind of fight purses that only boxing's one percent -- namely Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao -- have ever known.
To get there, he tricked Mayweather into constantly mouthing his name by exposing the only flaw in Floyd's perfect game: his uncontrollable lust for easy money and the idea of improving to 50-0 against a loudmouth, "great white hope" who has never fought a professional round in boxing. It's an offer that's, quite literally, too good to pass up.
Each time Mayweather has said his name, McGregor's leverage with the UFC pulled closer to his favor. By sitting out for the first half of 2017 for the birth of his first child -- a son, Conor Jr. -- McGregor only increased his value as UFC has struggled to produce buzzworthy cards with the majority of its stars sitting idle (including Jon Jones, Ronda Rousey, Nate Diaz, Georges St-Pierre) for unrelated reasons.
White, meanwhile, has played his part in the charade by fawning support for the fight in order to keep things kosher with the star he badly needs. It helps that in the back of his mind, White knows just how hard this fight is to make simply because of his own presence as a third party in the deal.
Let's not forget, Mayweather, in part, has built his legacy upon being the first boxer to essentially eliminate the middle men (or third parties) altogether in deals like this, deftly securing a larger piece of the pie for himself. In doing that, he taught others how to use promoters to merely perform a service while preventing them from financially using you.
White's support in this case very well might be lip service. It's one thing for McGregor to agree on a deal with his own promoter for a fight and an entirely different one for his domineering opponent to bend to White's terms. If the deal falls apart, White can say that he tried and hope that's enough for McGregor.
Still, under this scenario, White is very much playing a dangerous game of chicken that he may very well lose.
But the real root of this entire ordeal is McGregor's incomparable star power, his knowledge of his own value and the UFC's long-critiqued style of underpaying its top athletes in comparison to other major sports.
All of this brings us back to UFC 213 and the new ownership's current need for lucrative PPV cards after acquiring so much debt to purchase it in the first place.
For as deep as the card appeared to be originally, a main event has still not been announced. Making matters worse, the co-main event, a bantamweight title bout between Cody Garbrandt and TJ Dillashaw, is on the ropes due to Garbrandt's back injury. The remaining top fight, Amanda Nunes-Valentina Shevchenko II for the women's bantamweight championship, would be a tough sell for a main event of a card this important.
Enter McGregor, who its clear from his steady deluge of social media videos that he has been in the gym during his paternal leave and is currently in great shape.
With Michael Bisping revealing on his own podcast this week that his knee isn't 100 percent and St-Pierre sticking hard to his decision that a return can't happen until November, there's no other star available to make UFC 213 matter. Jones' return date from a PED suspension meant his rematch with Daniel Cormier couldn't be made until later in the month.
The countdown to UFC 213 is at 51 days and there's a simple way for White and company to end this charade altogether and give both McGregor and UFC fans exactly what they want: pay the man his money.
One only has to look back to recent years to realize just how valuable McGregor has been to the annual International Fight Week card. Last year, he was pulled at the last minute from the main event of UFC 200 for refusing to break camp for a press conference. Not only was his absence felt in terms of sales, his return at UFC 202 broke the company's record for PPV buys. One year earlier, McGregor did big numbers in headlining UFC 189 against late replacement Chad Mendes.
Four of the five biggest-selling PPV cards in UFC history have had McGregor's name on the marquee. And he's certainly equal parts intelligent and crazy enough to sign on for a Mayweather fight knowing it sets him up to earn more in one night than the other big names in his UFC division will make in their entire MMA careers. Combined.
It's not difficult to realize which side has more leverage at this moment.
The sport of mixed martial arts has never had a star on the same level as McGregor. He knows it just as much as we all do. Now it's time for UFC to prove financially that it does to.
No more charades.
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