To Conor McGregor, daring to step into the foreign land of a boxing ring to meet the legendary Floyd Mayweather Jr., is the latest example of his pursuit to do what few believe him capable of.
“This is legacy. This is people doubting me, questioning my skill set — talking as if I’m a novice, talking as if I haven’t been doing this my entire life,” McGregor told the Los Angeles Times as his media day opened Friday at the UFC Performance Institute. “I’ve been fighting since day one and I’m the best there is. I can fight in many forms. This here is Bruce Lee [stuff], that’s where my mind is at.”
McGregor, 29, has made his career as the UFC’s first-ever simultaneous two-belt champion by pressing to take on challenges that seemed too daring, like taking on 10-year-unbeaten featherweight champion Jose Aldo, like asking for another shot at 170 pounds against Nate Diaz, and like seeking the double-belt feat in November against Eddie Alvarez.
McGregor won each, and he expects, even as a 6/1 underdog, to do the same against Mayweather, 40, who’s looking to close his storied, five-division world-champion boxing career at 50-0 in their Aug. 26 bout at T-Mobile Arena.
He emphasized that point when asked if it helped to prepare with nothing to lose, knowing he has a safe landing to return as UFC lightweight champion, free to explain he only sought to test himself in a pay-per-view venture in which he stands to earn in excess of $100 million.
“The word [lose] isn’t even in my vocabulary. I am here to win. I’m preparing to win — win in devastating fashion,” McGregor said. “That’s where we’re at. I don’t care about the money. I don’t care about any of that. It gets to the point where the money is just up here [increasing] right at the top. I’m at that stage now. As long as I make correct decisions — and not stupid decisions — I’m set for life. I’m past the stage where this is for money.”
In his Friday workout, McGregor showed off some moves without gloves in the boxing ring, then put on the gloves to hit the speed bag and heavy bags. Despite chuckles from those who watched the footage on live streams and on social media, McGregor said that’s the beauty of what he’s bringing Mayweather — something the smaller champion has never seen.
“We’ll come with a different approach than what he’s used to,” McGregor said. “It forces a man to react off my creation. When you’re reacting and not creating, you’re in trouble. Then, factor that in with my punch power and precision. It’s not going to end well. It’s not going to end well for all those people doubting me, who are talking things about what this is going to be. I’m just looking forward to a post-fight education of the entire world of what true martial arts is.”
McGregor said he opted not to retain a veteran fight trainer like Southern Californians Freddie Roach, Abel Sanchez or Robert Garcia because he wasn’t sure any of them would’ve given him their full attention. He also spoke about the importance of his loyalty to his team, led by trainer John Kavanagh.
Despite a split with sparring partner and former world champion Paulie Malignaggi, and another who said McGregor is unprepared for Mayweather’s sophisticated boxing, McGregor said he dominated both men in their sessions. “[Malignaggi] suffered head trauma, we were worried about him,” McGregor said. He also scoffed at Mayweather’s Thursday notion that McGregor could claim a consolation victory just by lasting all 12 rounds.
McGregor said his confidence is brimming so high now that he believes he can knock out Mayweather in two rounds, not four.
“You know what I heard [Mayweather] say yesterday? Nothing. I saw a man scared. I saw a lackluster workout. I saw a man trying to talk himself out of fatigue,” McGregor said.
Beyond Mayweather’s age and two years out of the ring, McGregor said the fact he expects to walk into the ring at 170 pounds with Mayweather at 150 will be another significant advantage.
“I’m going to play to the rules,” said McGregor, who has sparred under the supervision of veteran boxing referee Joe Cortez. “It will be unusual to Floyd, but that’s not my worry. You can’t prepare for me. Let him try to study. There’s nobody in the game who moves like me, who strikes like me or who has confidence like me.”
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire