The worlds of boxing and MMA collided last year when Conor McGregor made his boxing debut against the undefeated Floyd Mayweather in what was more a money-making circus than a pugilistic classic.
The UFC star who has made his name and fortune from his sledgehammer left hand sought to upset the world and hand the best defensive boxer in a generation his first ever professional loss.
From the outset, it was always going to be a tall order. McGregor was going to have to do the job in the first two or three rounds or Mayweather would adapt and overcome as he always did.
Such it was in the contest that lasted an impressive nine rounds plus change. Though he enjoyed some success with the larger gloves and surprised Mayweather on more than one occasion early on, the MMA star’s inexperience and boxing conditioning allowed the 40-year-old boxing legend to stroll to an inevitable win.
After the fight, in stark contrast to the often gaudy promotional tour ahead of their clash, both fighters expressed their mutual respect and departed with obscenely enhanced bank balances.
The only question left unanswered from their efforts last August was would Mayweather accept McGregor’s offer of a rematch, this time in the Octagon.
Having come out of retirement for the knock with the Irishman and promptly returning to that post-fighting realm following his 50th victory, it appeared that it would be an offer left unclaimed.
Yet, months later, the ego of Mayweather continued to hint and tease about the prospect of a move to MMA, despite now being 41 years of age.
With McGregor now having signalled his intentions to return to the Octagon in 2018, fans can’t help but wonder if that improbable rematch could actually be possible after all.
When the two squared off in the ring last Autumn, the boxing fraternity didn’t give the MMA star a chance, rightly so in hindsight, all and sundry give the American even less of a sot of success in the Octagon.
Only this week, Mayweather’s oversized bodyguards saw fit to promote their employer’s wrestling abilities, seemingly in an attempt to counterbalance the overwhelmingly one-sided sentiment towards Mayweather’s chance against McGregor.
Reported by TMZ, Mayweather’s muscular entourage insist their boss has legitimate ground skills.
So, with the news that there could be more to Mayweather than just his boxing prowess, perhaps we should anticipate a more evenly matched contest, should he step into the cage with McGregor, right?
Actually, no. Not a hope.
While there was a slim chance McGregor might shock the world with his striking abilities, there can be simply no such chance for a man so disciplined by the regiments of the ring and there are three simple reasons why.
Where in boxing the referee is often called up to break fighters apart when they get to holding each other, no such luxuries are afforded fighters in MMA.
The referee is primarily there for the safety of each fighter, yet for the most part will remain a mere observer, ensuring there are no illegal actions like, among others, eye-gouging, headbutting, low blows, use of the knee or kicking on a grounded opponent taking place.
In MMA, holding is grappling and is fair game. There is no respite to be had here.
Furthermore, turning your back on an opponent is enough for a referee to reset the fighters in the ring, while in MMA it is to offer your opponent the chance to quickly wrap up proceedings by means of a choke.
Should everything remain legal, the referee will be called upon to intervene only to signal the end of a round or protect a newly unconscious fighter.
Having lived under and thrived on the defined structures of boxing’s rules, Mayweather would find the freedoms of MMA a veritable shock to the system, where there is nowhere to hide, not even a corner.
Even the most hardened of MMA fighters can succumb to a solid kick, be it to the leg, body or head. Just ask anyone who has seen the heel of Anderson Silva up close over the last decade or so.
McGregor employed the leg kick to great success against Nate Diaz in their UFC 202 rematch, keeping the American at bay for much of the fight, all the while picking him off with his accurate hands.
Having likely never had to contend with anything other than a gloved hand, Mayweather simply could not contend with a whole new mode of attack, not in the time afforded to him to upskill in the dark arts of MMA.
Should he so choose, McGregor could quickly decimate the boxer’s legs, thus removing his ability to either strike or evade with the accuracy and efficiency he is used to.
While McGregor is not the grappler and ground specialist that is Khabib Nurmagomedov, he nevertheless is not one to be taken lightly.
Though he prefers the standup game in order to employ his heavy hands, he has proven himself rather decent at defending a takedown or surviving under pressure when things do go to the mat.
Yes, he was left sorely wanting against Diaz at UFC 196 but against the smaller and far less qualified Mayweather, there could only ever be one outcome should things descend into a close quarters brawl.
Even an optimist must quickly reach a sobering assessment of Mayweather and his chances in the Octagon. Despite his defensive abilities, his fighting intelligence and ability to learn and adapt, the onslaught that would be wrought upon him by McGregor, or any other MMA fighter, would simply be too much even for him to handle.
The boxing fraternity expressed a similar view of McGregor’s chances in the ring. He doesn’t have the striking skills, the speed, the stamina, the experience and in many regards, they were right.
The same will rightly be said of Mayweather. While McGregor stepped into a world where fists are the sole weapon in the arsenal, MMA offers fighters the chance to use everything but their own head.
It would take years for Mayweather to develop the skills needed to match McGregor in the cage and everyone seems to know it, except the boxer himself.