Conor McGregor has lured many opponents in for a knockdown punch, but the UFC lightweight champion might be walking into a stunning blow of his own by thinking a deal with UFC President Dana White will clinch a boxing match against his fellow combat sports king Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Interviews Thursday with several people inside the fight game who understand negotiating and have done business with Mayweather in recent years revealed that considerable distance remains between a McGregor-UFC agreement and getting retired pound-for-pound No. 1 Mayweather, 40, in the ring.
“You have to understand that Dana White saying he’s made a deal with Conor McGregor doesn’t mean anything,” said a fight maker who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not involved in these talks.
“He could be making a deal simply to please Conor McGregor … to make it look like Dana White is on the side of his biggest star. The next thing could be Dana White going back to Conor McGregor and saying: ‘Oh, these people are totally unreasonable. Can you believe Mayweather wants 70% of the pot? That leaves nothing for us.
“‘[Forget] it. I’ll pay you more fighting here in the UFC, where you are the main guy. You don’t want to be second fiddle.’ The deal with Dana White doesn’t mean [anything].”
White did not respond to The Times after announcing he and McGregor had agreed to terms on a deal allowing the fighter, who has four fights left on his UFC contract, to participate in the boxing match that has captured wide mainstream sports fans’ attention and imagination.
However, officials close to Mayweather, 40, said as of Thursday afternoon, there had been no contact with the UFC and either Mayweather or his powerful manager, Al Haymon.
“There is nothing to report,” is all Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe would say Thursday as he and Mayweather promoted their junior-lightweight world champion Gervonta Davis’ Saturday bout in London against Liam Walsh on Showtime.
While Mayweather was promised guaranteed purses of $30 million or greater during his six-fight deal with Showtime that expired following his September 2015 unanimous-decision victory over Andre Berto, another guarantee would be required for him to fight McGregor.
“You know how Floyd is … you think he’ll fight for $30 million? Hell no. He’s going to want a big $100-million guarantee,” said a boxing business veteran who requested anonymity because of his sensitive contacts in the sport. “And that big guarantee is only going to happen if the [purse] split is substantially in the favor of Mayweather.
“That, or he’s not going to make the money he wants to make and he’s going to want to stay retired. The guy has a lot of money, just turned 40 … but who’s going to guarantee that type of money? He’s not getting in the ring without a guarantee.”
That requires some hard selling, and a likely move off a September date that White said vanished when middleweight boxing champion Gennady Golovkin and Mexico’s most popular fighter, Canelo Alvarez, announced earlier this month that they’ll fight on Mexican Independence Day weekend, Sept. 16.
“I don’t see why they would [shift the fight to Sept. 9], either, with another event so close,” veteran East Coast boxing promoter Lou DiBella said.
“You have to think that the suggested-retail [price] on Canelo-Golovkin is going to be pretty high. If they did make [Mayweather-McGregor], why put it in the same cable month? People with two pay-per-views would have to pay this enormous cable bill … and there’s limited advertising space on cable. So why share a month as opposed to two huge events at different times. If that happened, it’d be counterintuitive.”
While there certainly would be entertaining trash talk between the charismatic pair, the quality of the fight is expected to be poor given the inequity in boxing experience.
“We all think the fight would be a big fight and do a lot of pay-per-views, but who the hell knows?” the high-profile boxing official said. “Nobody knows.
“It’s not going to be a fight. It’s going to be a circus. People will pay for the circus, but will people pay $70 to $80? You’re seeing pay-per-view numbers going down, piracy is an issue among the young people who want to see this fight, while older [boxing fans] may not want to see this, with Mayweather a [heavy] favorite. It’s a risk.”
A likely date shift would be to Dec. 2, but White has said McGregor wants to fight twice this year, and that would mean the UFC’s biggest star – after taking off the first half of the year while awaiting the birth of his son this month -- had zero mixed martial arts fights in 2017.
“The UFC and Dana White have a nightmare on their hands: an unhappy fighter who wants to get paid a lot of money. They can’t just ignore him and they can’t be perceived as the ones who stopped the fight,” the high-profile boxing official said. “They played it perfect: ‘We worked our things out, and now we’ll see if we can work things out with Mayweather … ‘
“But I think they’re going to come back and say, ‘Typical Mayweather … he’s so greedy. He wants all the money. [Forget] it, that fight is not going to happen.’