At this point I am resigned to it–Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor are going to fight. They are going to fight and it is going to be the only fight casual fans and mainstream sports media talks about this year. As a dedicated fan, historian and practitioner of combat sports, I find the situation frustrating. It’s a sideshow, with no real relevance to the noble and ancient tradition of fighting sports.
I am not at all sympathetic to the line of thought that the fight will be noteworthy and interesting due simply to the “spectacle” of it all. Oh, it will be a relentless hype job to be sure.
McGregor and Mayweather are both legitimately brilliant when it comes to self promotion. They will both make plenty of clip-worthy comments and provide plenty of easy copy to writers and video editors. But I personally have no interest in that.
If I cared about entertaining interviews given to promote non-competitive fights, I would watch the WWE. But I do not watch the WWE. And I am not intrigued by legitimate combat sports slipping further in that direction.
I am interested in seeing great sportsmen and women compete. Mayweather and McGregor are both great. But McGregor is not a credible opponent for Mayweather in boxing, a sport in which he has no significant competitive experience. It would be no different if Mayweather were climbing into the cage.
The only thing that could make this fight interesting would be a set of rules that evened the playing field. One novel idea I heard floated this week was allowing McGregor one kick per round.
That sounds like a gimmick but it could make the fight truly interesting. Casual fans no doubt think McGregor would go head-hunting with that kick. But what he would really do is drill Mayweather with a leg kick. Two or three solid leg kicks from a martial artist like McGregor would seriously slow down Mayweather’s ability to use the ring. If he brought one of those kicks up just a bit and put it in Mayweather’s ribs or liver, he could stop the fight.
An idea I like even better is allowing fighting in the clinch. No throws and now grappling below the waist, but holding and hitting is okay.
Clinch fighting was an essential part of boxing in the bareknuckle era. It is more important to MMA today, but boxers still have to be able to protect themselves in the clinch and fight out of it. Boxers like Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins are outstanding at skirting the line between what is and is not legal in the clinch. Mayweather is very skilled at working in the clinch.
Still, allowing clinch work would provide McGregor with at least one way he could put the fight on advantageous terms. It would actually make it a fight worth watching.