Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather II? Here we go again

Conor McGregor, left, and Floyd Mayweather are bringing their rivalry back on social media. ESPN Illustration

They're back. America's favorite bickering businessmen, Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather, are stalking each other once again on social media, puffing out their cyber-chests and throwing barbs back and forth -- just as they started doing, out of nowhere, a couple of years ago. Back then, serious fans of boxing and MMA mostly shook their heads and guffawed at the implausible notion that these two might actually meet in a ring or cage. Then look what happened.

If you're into combat sports for the high-level competition rather than the low-rent spectacle, you've maybe been covering your eyes and even holding your nose each time Mayweather or McGregor has taken to Twitter or Instagram in recent days. Do we really need an encore presentation of the best of his generation schooling a 0-0 boxer? Then again, there surely are paying customers out there just dying to fork over another $100 to see these two dance again, right? Right?

The revival of these opportunistic antagonists' overcooked beef happened innocently enough, or so it might seem if you're not a parent of adolescent siblings. Mayweather spoke to TMZ earlier this week and kindly offered up his Las Vegas gym for McGregor to do final preparations for his Oct. 6 fight against UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. That apparently was all the provocation it took. The gesture, you see, came with an implicit pat on the head, the conqueror stooping to show his conquered little foe a thing or two. And McGregor isn't about to be big-brothered by anyone.

The Irishman's ungrateful response on Twitter is not fit to be repeated here on a family website, other than the part where, while trying out some infantilizing of his own, he campaigned for a sequel of last year's artless summer blockbuster. "There is no peace here kid," he wrote. "Step up or shut up." Whereupon "Money" Mayweather changed his welcoming tone in favor of an Instagram economics lesson: "Easiest 9 figures I ever made!"

Easiest 9 figures I ever made! All work is what? #mayweatherpromotions #TMT #TBE

A post shared by Floyd Mayweather (@floydmayweather) on

And that is where we stand. Is this just a passing distraction, McGregor using Floyd to generate extra pay-per-view buys for his MMA fight in October, and Mayweather using Conor to spice up a few heated summertime days of his retirement? Or will we see Mayweather at cageside at UFC 229, pulling some sort of Lesnar lite stunt to get the hype campaign 2.0 rolling?

These are questions some of us might wish we could just ignore until they go away. But let's explore.

What would it take to make this fight happen?

A prerequisite for making a big fight happen down the road is winning the big fight right in front of you, wouldn't you think? That doesn't seem to apply to McGregor, though. His tap-out loss to Nate Diaz in 2016 was humbling but did not dim his star power by even a single lumen. So even if he were to lose to Nurmagomedov, he would retain the wattage to call his shots and draw a crowd.

A loss at UFC 229 might make a second boxing detour less likely, however, because of McGregor's own nature. Just as he would accept no fight other than a Diaz rematch in the aftermath of that defeat, he surely would focus all of his being on getting back inside a cage with Nurmagomedov if need be. He's that competitive.

If McGregor wins on Oct. 6, handing Nurmagomedov his first career loss and reclaiming the lightweight belt, he would establish himself as an all-time great. But where would he go from there within MMA? Would he finally defend a belt? Would he go after a third divisional crown, bulking up to challenge the winner of next weekend's welterweight title bout between Tyron Woodley and Darren Till?

Or would McGregor follow the "Money" once again? The decision would seem to be all his, as long as he sets aside the majority of the cash for Mayweather and the UFC gets a taste as well.

Would the fight be in boxing or MMA this time?

Actually, WWE is probably the most appropriate venue for this squash match. Mayweather has a bit of pro wrestling experience, and McGregor has at least the microphone chops to hang with the best in the squared circle. So ...

Oh, all right, we'll stick to the two fighters' chosen sports and sort this out logically. One man is a boxer and the other a mixed martial artist, and their first meeting took place in a boxing ring. During the hype tour leading up to that fight, Mayweather boasted to McGregor, "I'll whoop your ass in the Octagon." And since the fight, he's twice been filmed working out in an MMA cage, and he was quoted as saying, "If I do come back, it has to be in the Octagon." McGregor, for his part, acknowledged the anniversary of the Mayweather fight earlier this week by suggesting that his TKO loss was a product of his adhering to "a load of rules" -- the implication being that it wasn't a real fight as an MMA bout would be.

1 year ago what a trip. Outside trip.

A post shared by Conor McGregor Official (@thenotoriousmma) on

Therefore, if a rematch does come to fruition, it most definitely would take place in ... a boxing ring.

I mean, c'mon, Mayweather in an MMA cage? If Floyd is itching to venture beyond his 50-0 comfort zone, he might want to first consult with James Toney.

When and where could this realistically come together?

The where part is easy. Mayweather fought the last 15 fights of his career in his adopted hometown of Vegas. He ain't going nowhere.

As for the when, Floyd has all the time in the world on his hands. He'd just have to fit this side job into a retiree's schedule of sitting on a park bench feeding pigeons and playing keno at the corner store.

McGregor, on the other hand, would have some decisions to make. Would he feel the urgency to strike while the iron is hot, rather than risk Mayweather later having second thoughts about a second return from retirement? Or would he prefer to stay with MMA for a while, for fear of alienating his fan base, not to mention UFC president Dana White?

McGregor doesn't seem like the sit-and-wait type, so he's going to need a good reason to stick around in the Octagon. A good green reason, that is. If he can get a succession of money fights in the cage, he might not keep chasing Mayweather. But no MMA payday is going to come close to matching the take from that preposterous boxing rematch, so the decision comes down to whether legacy-building is important enough to him that he'd settle for a significantly smaller pile of green paper.

Why would Mayweather consider doing this again?

Have you heard that Floyd has a nickname?

Why would McGregor consider doing this again?

He loves money, too, but Conor is also driven by a self-belief that is unshakable. He might have been the only person at T-Mobile Arena who truly believed he could defeat Mayweather in that first fight. White said he believed, but that was promoter-speak from a guy who has been around boxing long enough to know better. McGregor, on the other hand, believed in himself with all his heart. Despite all evidence to the contrary, McGregor has a deep-down conviction that he can outbox the best boxer of his generation. He'd love a second shot.

What is there to gain for either sport?

The first fight generated more than $600 million in total revenue. The pay-per-view reached 4.3 million households. Mayweather pocketed $275 million, according to Forbes, and McGregor around $85 million, with the UFC's take being nearly as much. It was the second-biggest fight in combat sports history in terms of earnings and reach, behind only Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao. Not bad for a P.T. Barnum spectacle.

But that's the thing. Once you've been barkered inside the Big Top and have seen how all the tricks and illusions play out, are you keen to pay up again and go back for more? It's hard to fathom a rematch earning anything near what the first fight did. Of course, if it were to do even half as well, it'd still outdistance McGregor's best MMA payday, and the UFC would cash a humongous check. That's what this is all about, isn't it?


The best of Mayweather-McGregor world tour

Four cities and three countries over four days. Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor traded verbal jabs from one city to the next.

Why not freshen up the concept, though? Offer the anticlimactic fight for free but charge $100 on pay-per-view for the promotional hype events, which were the most entertaining (if at times offensive) part of the circus on its first time through town.

What is there to lose?

When McGregor steps into the Octagon on Oct. 6, it will have been nearly 23 months since he last heard the cage door close behind him. That's about two years lost from the prime of his career. Is another detour truly worth it, for the sport and one of its elite fighters?

The Mayweather-McGregor spectacle did shine a spotlight on boxing, but it was deflected light. This starry mismatch took place just 21 days before the most eagerly awaited boxing match of the year, Gennady Golovkin vs. Canelo Alvarez. That was the fight that deserved the shine. So if Floyd and Conor dance again, which real fight would they overshadow this time?