The name Floyd Mayweather Jr never seems to be far from the lips of the UFC’s two biggest stars, Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey.
In recent months it has been hard to escape the cross-style saga involving boxing’s pay-per-view king, and his MMA counterparts. It all began when Rousey took a shot at Mayweather after she received the ESPY Fighter of the Year award. The UFC women’s bantamweight champion directed a particularly provocative question toward Floyd, who wasn’t in attendance. “How does it feel to be beaten by a woman for once?”, asked Rousey rhetorically. It was a thinly, very thinly, veiled reference to the fact that Mayweather has been convicted and imprisoned for acts of violence against women.
In the aftermath of Rousey’s comments the mainstream media went into overdrive asking questions about how Mayweather might fare in an MMA bout with the “Rowdy” one. Rousey, and UFC president Dana White, were only too happy to inform all those who quizzed them that Floyd’s chances of victory would be scant.
The media’s interest in a Mayweather MMA cross-over spilled into interviews with other fighters as well, most prominently Conor McGregor.
Never one to allow himself to be out-hyped, McGregor claimed that not only would he “kill Floyd Mayweather in less than 30 seconds” under MMA rules, but that he would be more than willing to step into Mayweather’s milieu. “I would certainly box Floyd Mayweather”, said the Dubliner.
In contrast to the brash and belligerent way in which the UFC representatives approached the subject, Floyd addressed such questions with an air of calm, perhaps even a whiff of dismissive indifference. Generally, he wished his attackers well, without ever entertaining the fantasy.
Comparing the way the fighters dealt with these questions reveals something about the goals of each.
The MMA contingent began the name dropping, and have actively courted it by answering future questions with aggressive gusto. Mayweather, on the other hand, has shown little interest in the topic and has been quick to move past the conversation.
Of course, some will see this as a sign of fear.
Mayweather, famous for cherry picking opponents within his own sport, obviously doesn’t want to engage in an MMA match-up. The reality is, however, that Mayweather has no reason to be interested. Talking about Rousey or McGregor does not enhance his name in any way.
For Rousey and McGregor, calling out one of the biggest names in all of sport does have a purpose. It means added media attention.
Even though we are constantly told that boxing is dying, or worse, already deceased, Mayweather’s name still carries more cache than Rousey’s and McGregor’s put together.
A good indicator of that fact can be found by examining the twitter following of the 3 fighters. Floyd has over 7 million, whilst Rousey only has 1.6 million. McGregor is way behind on a mere 668k.
More telling still are the pay-per-view numbers. Even when he is facing off against opponents that are relative unknowns to casual boxing fans, Mayweather can equal or better the biggest numbers that Rousey and McGregor have drawn thus far.
For example, Mayweather approached the million buys mark with both Marcos Maidana and Robert Guerrero as B-sides. He drew over 1 million with Victor Ortiz. It took an extremely personal feud with Bethe Correia to push Rousey to that number for the first time. That is if the UFC’s projections are even to be believed. Remember they claimed that “The Notorious” drew a similar number, in the immediate aftermath of UFC 189. In actuality, McGregor had only managed to garner between 800,000 – 850, 000 purchases. This, despite the fact that he was in his biggest fight to date, against one of the top names in his division, and on an event that was bolstered by a very sturdy undercard.
It should also be noted that Rousey was not expected to draw such a huge number at UFC 190. It came as quite a surprise to the MMA media, in fact. Her previous fight against Cat Zingano topped UFC 184, a show that only drew 595,000 buyers.
One could speculate that Rousey’s antics at the ESPY awards, and all the Mayweather talk since, has played a part in that astounding increase.
Quoting these figures isn’t an attempt to denigrate the UFC pair. Rather, it is to put their recent posturing into perspective.
I recently wrote a piece about how Floyd’s demeanour and persona has been somewhat toned down in recent times. On top of the reasons specified therein one could add another. Floyd isn’t as verbose as he once was partly because he simply doesn’t need to be. Floyd is already rich beyond imagination.
The loudest talk always comes from the hungriest fighters.
When he had yet to reach superstar status Floyd Mayweather was more easily heard, and the target of his vitriol was Oscar De La Hoya. The Golden Boy was the biggest name in the sport, and Mayweather’s ticket to the big time. Floyd would eventually secure his dream fight and usurp the king.
For Rousey and McGregor, already the biggest names in their field, there is nobody to aim their ambitious calls at. They are the reigning king and queen. It is for this reason that they have directed their attention to Floyd. The chance that they will ever secure a fight with him is extremely slim, bordering on non-existent, but with every public mention of his name they can share in his spotlight. The media play along because it makes for good headlines, entertaining television and because the likes of Jose Aldo or Miesha Tate just aren’t big enough names to keep a casual audience’s attention.
There will be MMA fans that take exception to this analysis, but they shouldn’t. I too am an MMA fan. I am not belittling the sport, and I am not criticizing what Ronda and Conor are doing. They are simply engaging in a dance as old as the sport of boxing.
The only difference is that they are crossing sporting borders to do so.