As I usually do a couple of times a year, I spent the day at the ESPN offices in Bristol, Connecticut, on Wednesday. Throughout the day I ran into old friends, chatted with a variety of folks at the company, had some meetings.
Pretty much wherever I went they had one question for the boxing guy and it wasn't about Canelo Alvarez-Gennady Golovkin or who I thought won the Sergey Kovalev-Andre Ward fight (for the record, Kovalev, 115-112).
What they all asked me was some form of this question: So is that Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight ever going to happen?
Oy. As I have said since the notion of that fight was first raised: No chance. Zero. For a million reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Mayweather, when he fights, is the best boxer on the planet and McGregor would essentially be making his professional boxing debut and, frankly, I have serious doubts a commission even would approve such a dangerous mismatch. The same would be said if Mayweather was seeking to fight in MMA (which he would never even remotely consider).
After a long day of traveling back and forth to Connecticut, I returned home to northern Virginia and instead of going to bed, I made the mistake of checking my email. I was greeted with several from the office about the story that colleague and MMA writer Brett Okamoto had written while I was flying home -- the one about how McGregor had gotten a boxing license in California.
Naturally, that once again raised wild speculation about a possible fight with Mayweather, who has been retired for a little more than a year. My initial reaction to McGregor's gambit: whoopty doo.
His getting a boxing license means nothing as it relates to a (im)possible fight with Mayweather. You know what you need to do to get a license for combat sports in California? Pay $60, fill out a rather simple four-page application and pass a medical exam.
"He's a very good MMA fighter, give credit where it's due. It's kind of played out now. Just stop it. The con game is over. Go out there and worry about dominating the UFC because three fights ago he lost, he was quitting. You couldn't even mention the word quit with Floyd Mayweather."Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather Promotions
My thought on McGregor's play is that he is just looking for more attention. He's great at generating that, as is Mayweather. And guess what? He's got it.
But I wanted to know what Team Mayweather thought of the turn of events so I called on one Leonard Ellerbe, the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, who knows Floyd as well as anyone.
Ellerbe is usually reserved in his commentary but when I informed him of McGregor's licensure, he was animated.
"It's all a game. It's all a calculated effort to gain more fans," Ellerbe said. "He got a boxing license. Congratulations to him. Conor McGregor can say anything he wants to but he has a boss and his name is [UFC president] Dana White. He is under contract to the UFC and if he wanted to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match he can't because his bosses wouldn't allow that to happen. The brass [from WME-IMG] who recently purchased the UFC [for $4 billion earlier this year] are very smart people and they would never -- and put this in bold caps -- let him step into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather because everyone knows what the outcome would be. He would get his ass beat from pillar to post."
Ellerbe also invoked race, saying the only reason people are interested and talking about the prospect of the fantasy match is because of color. McGregor is a white Irishman. Mayweather is African-American.
"Call it was it is -- it's a black-and-white issue," Ellerbe said. "The reason why it generates so much attention is because it's a black-and-white issue. If we're talking about Floyd against Anderson Silva, when he was No. 1, we wouldn't be having this kind of conversation."
Ellerbe also said McGregor's boxing license is meaningless because of his contract with UFC.
"At the end of the day, he's under contract with the UFC," Ellerbe said. "He's told what to do. He's an employee. He's done a masterful con job to try to trick people that he could actually pull this off. It's another creative way to create more interest. Nobody is mad but it's a con job trying to make people think this is real and even mentioning him and TBE [The Best Ever, Mayweather's nickname] in the same breath is disrespectful, completely disrespectful. Isn't this the same guy who tapped out three fights ago?"
Indeed, McGregor, moving up in weight, tapped out against Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in March. Since then he has won two in a row, including a rematch with Diaz at UFC 202 followed by a win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 to win the UFC lightweight title, thus becoming the first fighter to hold UFC titles in two divisions simultaneously as he was also the promotion's featherweight champion.
"He's a very good MMA fighter, give credit where it's due," Ellerbe said. "It's kind of played out now. Just stop it. The con game is over. Go out there and worry about dominating the UFC because three fights ago he lost, he was quitting. You couldn't even mention the word quit with Floyd Mayweather. And, like I said, [McGregor] can't do anything without the UFC's approval. There's no way [WME-IMG] spent all that money so they can get their biggest star killed. It would never happen. If they want to get him killed put him in there in a boxing match."
Ellerbe also said that Mayweather (49-0 as a boxer) has zero interest in fighting McGregor (21-3 in MMA).
"Think about this," Ellerbe said. "Floyd is a guy who spent his entire life developing his craft and becoming the best to do this. And he beat a number of great fighters and is undefeated and built his legacy on hard work and dedication. He beat world champions over a 20-year period and here's a guy, McGregor, who has about 20 fights and lost three of them, and three fights ago he was seen on the mat quitting. What are we talking about? And I have a great deal of respect for what he does for a living. Floyd and I have nothing against UFC or any of their fighters. I respect all fighters who step in a ring or the Octagon, but Floyd is in the Bahamas enjoying life. He's not thinking about Conor McGregor or anyone else.
"What McGregor is attempting to do is take a page out of Floyd's book from the marketing and promotional side by using his name. The quickest way to become famous is to align yourself with another famous person, and he's done a good job of that."
Ellerbe lauded McGregor's stand-up game and referred to him as a good puncher compared to the typical UFC fighter but that he would have no prayer with Mayweather.
"He has a good little hand game, a superior hand game compared to the UFC fighters he is competing with but fighting Floyd Mayweather is a whole other story," Ellerbe said. "That bulls--- you're throwing over there in UFC would get you killed against Floyd."