Efforts to make a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor boxing match reality have moved beyond the fighters’ extended public comments and the debates of television personalities to actual discussions between representatives of both fighters.
An official familiar with the situation but unauthorized to comment publicly about the sensitive talks told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday that “discussions to make the fight are underway.”
The talks are between the UFC ownership group — Ari Emanuel’s Beverly Hills agency WME-IMG — and Mayweather’s powerful manager, Al Haymon, the head of Premier Boxing Champions.
At this point, the official said, UFC President Dana White is not involved in the talks, as the parties are pushing to make a Mayweather-McGregor pay-per-view bout by “early fall.”
Formerly ranked as boxing’s top pound-for-pound fighter, the 40-year-old Mayweather (49-0) announced he would end his retirement, which dates from September 2015, to fight McGregor.
In November, McGregor became the UFC’s first-ever simultaneous two-division champion when he stopped Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden to win the lightweight (155-pound) belt.
The charismatic, talkative McGregor attended his Irish countryman Michael Conlan’s professional debut in March in New York, and told reporters his boxing training was well underway.
While Mayweather has scored convincing triumphs in the ring over deeply respected fighters such as Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez, McGregor has won many of his UFC fights through stand-up, striking methods.
His pre-fight mental warfare caused former longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo to rush at McGregor in late 2015, leading to the end of Aldo’s 10-year unbeaten streak in a title-fight record 13-second knockout.
And McGregor proceeded to score repeated knockdown punches on boxing-trained Nate Diaz in August and Alvarez to win those fights.
Still, Las Vegas oddsmakers place Mayweather as a substantial favorite and boxing veterans have scoffed at the seriousness of the event given Mayweather’s gifts.
The UFC and McGregor last month struck a deal settling how they’ll split the money their side gains from a bout expected to generate wide riches. McGregor has at least four fights remaining on his UFC contract.
White said the fight card will be purely boxing, with Mayweather-promoted former super-middleweight champion Badou Jack expressing interest in participating on the undercard, assuring that Showtime pay-per-view will have a role in televising the card.