Image Credit: ESPN
It is a Conor McGregor fight week for the UFC. The former champ-champ faces Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi at UFC Fight Island this weekend.
As such, the shenanigans and bodacious proclamations will be on full as the UFC’s biggest star receives the requisite regalia.
However, during his interview with UFC broadcast partner, ESPN, he made a particularly audacious statement regarding his nascent boxing career.
When asked about fighting Manny Pacquiao, “The Notorious” said:
”I think it’s a very high probability that it happens this year, when I’m not so sure, probably towards the end of it and I am ready for that belt also; you know it’s a boxing world title on the line.”
Currently, Manny Pacquiao (62-7-2) is the WBA (Super) welterweight champion. His last fight was a veteran’s win over Keith “One Time” Thurman back in July 2019.
Since then, Pacquiao, who holds multiple roles in his native Philippines as a Senator, vocalist, and occasional basketball player, has been seen as holding up the division.
With Errol “The Truth” Spence, Jr. (27-0) as the unified WBC and IBF welterweight champ and Terence “Bud” Crawford (37-0) as the WBO welterweight champion, it is curious how a professional MMAf fighter who is 0-1 could be fast tracked into title contention.
It exposes a glaring reality about the boxing business; that financial gains can trump the actual natural championship competition flow.
Boxing has made many strides since mixed martial arts accelerated market share in the combat space through attrition and consistency.
Conor McGregor arriving in style pic.twitter.com/OOvinp3udz
— Stanky (@stankymma) January 18, 2021
If a world sanctioning body agrees to bypass mandatory challengers and other deserving champions in favor of a novelty “super fight” for an actual title, it will have real world consequences.
Floyd Mayweather, Jr’s decision to face Conor McGregor as his 50th and final professional fight was problematic for many reasons.
It highlighted his business over sportsmanship strategy. Boxing diehards knew Mayweather would win based on Mayweather being an all around boxing savant.
But Mayweather played the insatiable race card that is ever present in boxing and the is one of the chief architects of legitimizing side show fights.
"Fight Island is mine!"
— UFC (@ufc) January 19, 2021
Mayweather sidestepped better challenges already in the sport like Keith Thurman, Errol Spence, Jr, and Danny Garcia back in 2017 in favor of McGregor. This began the validation of the novelty fight.
With Mauricio Sulaiman creating carnival style “The Money Belt” to sweeten the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, it went to further legitimize what should have otherwise been an exhibition bout.
Imagine Jake and Logan Paul jumping straight into championship boxing bouts after a win over former NBA star Nate Robinson or a loss to fellow YouTuber, KSI, respectively.
But these are the type of nefarious scenarios that are possible if Pacquiao grants Conor McGregor a title shot for his second professional boxing bout.
It doesn’t matter how long McGregor has trained boxing. He is not a boxer. He is a mixed martial arts champion.
In that sport he is decorated and it would be disrespectful to MMA fans for either Pacquiao or Mayweather to jump straight into a championship bout.
UFC President Dana White isn’t going for that.
You can say that Dana White’s sanctity for the sport was tainted when he legitimized WWE stars like Brock Lesnar and CM Punk, it that would be a misnomer.
Wrestling is the base for MMA, and it is well documented that wrestlers have been the top dog in the sport. However, the same is not true for boxing.
Boxing’s ability to test the sanctity of the sport bets on the fans patience and a McGregor title shot is just too much to bear.
Pacquiao has not confirmed McGregor’s statement and hopefully he won’t. Get your money Manny but don’t burn the house down on your way out the door.