The UFC 213 weekend left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans after Amanda Nunes pulled out of her title fight hours before the event began. And it’s unfair considering how spectacular the weekend of fighting was, including the interim middleweight title fight between Yoel Romero and Robert Whittaker, which replaced Nunes-Valentina Shevchenko as the main event.
But fans were upset and what better palate cleanse than the kickoff of UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s pursuits outside of the sport, which fans have embraced.
McGregor and Floyd Mayweather began a four city, three-country tour this week to promote the Aug. 26 boxing match. The spectacle of a fight’s launch tour lived up to the expectations of the event as a circus.
A packed crowd in the Staples Center in Los Angeleswas divided as the two traded barbs before heading to the post-press conference press conference. At one point, more than 500,000 people were watching on the YouTube streams on Showtime and YouTube’s channels.
"This is a completely full event today, not a seat left,” UFC president Dana White said. “We had to move to a bigger venue in Toronto. Barclays Center sold out and then today tickets sold out at Wembley in 10 minutes. There's never been anything like this.”
While this is all entertainment designed to excite fans and entice them to drop a treasure chest of change on the pay-per-view, it also provides an opportunity for McGregor to begin the fight.
In the lead up to UFC 189, when McGregor was originally slated to fight then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo, McGregor tormented him over the course of a world tour.
In Brazil he told Aldo’s fans to their face he was the king of their city, while disrespectfully kicking his feet up on the table. In Los Angeles, McGregor took Aldo’s belt and stood in a window with it to taunt him from the next room.
In Dublin, McGregor ripped Aldo’s belt off the table from right in front of him and held it into the air as the Irish fans erupted in a fever pitch.
"I'm a young, confident, happy man. I've worked extremely hard for this. I'm going to embrace everything,” McGregor said in Los Angeles. “No one can do anything to me. I'm going to have a good time.”
The reception in Los Angeles was divided, though leaning in McGregor’s favor. The rest of the stops on the tour—Toronto, New York and London—only will become larger crowds for McGregor.
McGregor didn’t understand the set up in Los Angeles. Boxing press conferences differ from that of the UFC. Dana White-led press events usually include little fanfare, straight to questions with a back and forth between fighters occasionally taking over.
White had to explain the difference between boxing and UFC press events on the stage at the Staples Center as introductions were underway.
In Toronto on Wednesday, McGregor came prepared and turned his antics up. Leading the crowd in chants. Taking wads of cash out of Mayweather’s back pack. Even confronting Showtime executives for turning off his microphone.
"Floyd is the perfect motivation for me to go in and conquer the supposedly unconquerable,” McGregor said. “What more motivation could you need? This pushes me on to do these record-breaking events."
And only time will tell if Mayweather can withstand McGregor’s relentless verbal assault and mind games.
Conor McGregor predicts a knockout inside four rounds
Conor McGregor winning by knockout is an unfathomable result to boxing purists. To MMA circles, and McGregor himself, it’s an achievable feat. MMA fans are familiar with Mystic Mac, McGregor’s future telling alter ego who is right often, and boxing fans are being introduced.
"He's got little legs and little hands. I'm going to knock him out inside of four rounds. Mark my words,” McGregor said in Los Angeles.
The Notorious added: "Floyd will be unconscious inside of four rounds. The power and ferociousness that I have, he's never experienced it before. I don't fear him.
"Even if he catches one of my punches with his glove, it will still hurt him. I'm like nothing he's ever seen before.”
Before UFC 194, McGregor predicted the exact sequence of events that would lead to his 13-second knock out of Jose Aldo. The relentless taunting Aldo endured on that world tour had him itching to throw a right hand, and he overextended himself and landed in McGregor’s trap.
Mayweather is a veteran and understands trash talk. The undefeated boxer is also predicting a knockout.
"I am guaranteeing you this. You are going out on your face or on your back,” Mayweather said. “So which way do you want to go?”
What we’ve learned about Mayweather vs. McGregor
Here is a quick snapshot of what we’ve learned about the boxing super fight:
• Ticket prices range from $500 to $10,000.
• PPV prices will be $89.99 for SD and $99.99 for HD
• Mayweather said he was interested in an MMA rematch, but he probably isn’t serious
Five Questions with Nick Strickland of Cage Pages
1. Is Conor McGregor inflicting the same kind of mental punishment during this world tour as he did to Jose Aldo during UFC 189?
I think it may be a little early to tell but he has done some good verbal sparring so far. If I'm Conor McGregor I most certainly want to to be able to inflict that type of mental damage on Mayweather. The unfortunate thing is I don't feel like Showtime will allow Conor to do as much damage. I mean we saw in Los Angeles that they cut his microphone off. If they want to sell over 5-million pay-per-views they need to allow Conor to talk but team Mayweather seems to have done their homework. Any mic time Conor has when Floyd is close will be very important going into these last few days of the tour.
2. Gegard Mousasi announced he signed with Bellator, is this a good move or bad move?
Mousasi signing with Bellator is a good move on his part. The deal he signed is worth a lot of money and the money is guaranteed even if a future opponent had to pull out and a replacement can't be found. Now, for his fans and MMA fans, in general, I personally feel it's a bad move. He won't be facing that Top-10 caliber fighter in every fight anymore and has pretty much guaranteed himself another world title due to that fact. He is already the most well rounded fighter the promotion has and he's not even made his debut yet. Good for him, bad for the fans.
3. Will this trend of fighters leaving the UFC continue, or will it not impact the UFC?
With this Reebok deal still in place, the trend of UFC fighters being signed elsewhere will most certainly continue. If they can get paid more and have sponsors why wouldn't they go where they can be who they are. Right now the fighters have no individuality inside that octagon besides their fighting style. I miss the days of old where they had banners and sponsor's logos all over their fight shorts and t-shirts, the days when the fighters could express themselves on their own fight kits. Nowadays it’s just the same old same and that is driving the fighters to search for greener pastures.
4. Has the reaction to Amanda Nunes pulling out of UFC 213 been surprising? Does she need to be stripped, or what is the right course of action in this situation?
Amanda Nunes should have been stripped of her title prior to UFC 213. She was medically cleared to fight and she chose to not fight. The promotion spent a bucket full of money promoting her, the fight and the card only for her to pull out on the day of the fight. This is quite frankly unacceptable behavior from a champion. We have all seen fighters enter that cage with injuries that far outweigh the sickness that Nunes had. She didn't want to fight because she knew that she would have lost and that is not ok or fair on the fans or Valentina Schevchenko. Yes, the fight has been re-booked but when a champion chooses not to compete when there is no medical reason stopping them, the promotion needs to send a very harsh, very loud message.
5. What should happen in the lightweight division with Kevin Lee, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje? Not to mention Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez as well.
There is a very interesting debacle going on in the lightweight division. There is unfinished business between Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez that looks like it won't get resolved anytime soon because the UFC is looking to book Alvarez against Gaethje. Now, speaking of Gaethje, Kevin Lee has stated that the UFC has offered him a coaching role on TUF 26 and he's waiting for Gaethje to accept his offer. I don't like that. The UFC should have Poirier and Alvarez coach TUF 26, let them promote their rivalry over a 6-week period and then they can fight. They need to have Gaethje and Lee fight at the TUF 26 Finale or before, but they should fight for sure. As for Tony Ferguson, he has unfinished business with Khabib Nurmagomedov to handle.