Rumours of a rematch between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather are gaining heat, but there is a twist: this time, they will meet in the Octagon.
The events of 26 August 2017 are, of course, well-documented, and the result was never in any real doubt. Through a tenth-round stoppage, Mayweather duly became the first man to go 50-0 in a pro-boxing career. It is a record that looks far more likely to stand the test of time than not, but in the eyes of some, the winner of #MayMac was the loser in reality, and vice versa.
In October 2018, Floyd Mayweather made no secret of his desire to mix it with McGregor once again.
History reflects badly upon boxers who enter an Octagon unable to perform groundwork basics. For all his skill, Mayweather’s inexperience in groundwork would put him at a disadvantage, but MMA is well-known for being unpredictable. With no teammates or timeouts, victory in the Octagon is only ever fuelled by determination and belief. A fight can end at a moment’s notice, and even the most innocuous-looking punch or kick to a vital area can often be enough.
Recently, kickboxer Mark Hunt became a case study for sheer experience beating youthful athleticism. Aged 43 at the time, the former K1 champion’s 2017 TKO of Derrick Lewis at UFC Fight Night in Auckland is the event in question. Prior to the said fight, nobody believed that a man 11 years older than his opponent – and relatively unschooled in groundwork – could ever hope for victory.
All of the odds, both metaphoric and numerical, were very much against the New Zealander, but his victory was one that could only act as a source of inspiration for Mayweather, should the ageing 50-0 behemoth ever take on McGregor again.
Regardless, McGregor’s own chances in any potential rematch would be even more in his favour than they were against him for his pro-boxing debut. Even his status as an outsider (prior to losing at UFC 229 against Khabib Nurmagomedov) did not detract from the belief that he could KO the Russian, and they – amongst pundits and other self-styled ‘experts’ – will always recognise the potential for McGregor to win specifically by knockout or stoppage (TKO), as opposed to simply being a winner by any means.
Indeed, the expectation of a knockout win for McGregor by punches or strikes is well-rooted in his personal MMA history and goes back longer than many realise, with his very first MMA fight producing that result.
Indeed, McGregor himself may feel more motivated than ever if he once more reflects on the drive and determination that saw him rise from common man to fighting legend.
A Tale Of Two Careers
The collision course that led to #MayMac began ten years previously, when (in February 2007) an eighteen-year-old Conor McGregor won by stoppage in his first MMA bout, against fellow Dubliner Ciaran Campbell.
His devastating blows and energetic celebrations were a hint of years to come. Yet, regardless of whatever skill he showed at the earliest stage of his MMA career, even McGregor himself could never have anticipated fighting the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr – especially back in 2007.
To put the sheer improbability of #MayMac into perspective, 2007 saw Mayweather beat Oscar De La Hoya just three months after McGregor’s MMA debut, to win the WBC light middleweight title. Then, in December, he ended Ricky Hatton’s unbeaten record to go 39-0 and establish himself as the dominant force of the welterweight division for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps even more remarkable is how quickly McGregor’s star rose after nearly five more years of relative obscurity. Though he climbed the ranks, November 2010 saw McGregor suffer his second professional defeat, with the decidedly un-‘notorious’ striker going down via submission to Joseph Duffy in front of the Setanta Sports cameras.
Meanwhile, Mayweather was going as strong as ever, extending his record to 41-0 after beating Shane Mosley several months previously, thus retaining belts across two different weight divisions after making a seamless transition to light-heavyweight action.
Then came 2011…
Though there could be another ‘showdown’ in due course…
Though 2011 may have been ‘business as usual’ for Mayweather, it was undoubtedly McGregor’s year of reckoning and acted as the definite launch pad for his exceptional rise to UFC fame. After three straight first-round victories, he was reinstated into the Cage Warriors roster in the summer of that year, and fought abroad for the first time ever, getting another victory in Amman at Cage Warriors: Fight Night 2.
Within eighteen months of that win, McGregor was the proud owner of the Cage Warriors’ featherweight and lightweight titles. The watershed moment of his transition to the bright lights of the UFC came in April 2013, with the Dubliner earning what was then a personal best of $76,000 in one night.
As the second half of the 2010s loomed, there was no slowing up. As an undercard of UFC 178 in September 2014, McGregor drew PPV money for the first time, exploding his fists of fury upon Dustin Poirier in a first-round TKO. It was then just a question of when McGregor’s first seven-figure PPV draw would arrive, and it duly did when he headlined a victory over Chad Mendes at UFC 189.
This is how the two main players of #MayMac have fared in their respective fighting disciplines in the last few years.
Ultimately, both men have long since ‘made it’, and for some, this potential rematch is a pointless publicity exercise. Yet, for others, it is a chance for Conor McGregor to prove that he has not lost touch with his humble beginnings.
McGregor himself must surely ruminate on this idea in private occasionally, especially after a difficult and turbulent eighteen-month period that has seen him lose his lightweight belt, but not his pride.