Conor McGregor Is Floyd Mayweather's Perfect Final Opponent

Lyle FitzsimmonsFeatured ColumnistAugust 19, 2017

Boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, and mixed martial arts fighter Conor McGregor exchange words during a news conference at Staples Center Tuesday, July 11, 2017, in Los Angeles. The two are scheduled to fight in a boxing match in Las Vegas on Aug. 26. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Floyd Mayweather Jr. has spent the better part of two decades atop the boxing mountain, winning titles and consensus acclaim as the best in five weight classes while ascending to the sport's rarest air—a 49-0 record.

Retirement in September 2015 put a convincing cap on things in the form of a 12-round Vegas whitewash of Andre Berto, but the subsequent 23 months away have apparently left the Pretty Boy turned Money man in dire need of a monumental headline-grabbing jolt.

The problem was that with no new high-profile ground to till in and around his signature weight class, Mayweather was without a partner worthy of his typical internet-breaking tango.

Enter Conor McGregor.

The perfect foil.

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The chatty Dubliner has scaled heady heights during a notorious nine-year octagonal climb, becoming the first man to simultaneously hold two UFC title belts while typically carrying the entire buzz-generating load amid a crop of opponents who can fight but not talk on a world-class level.

While McGregor clearly doesn't have Mayweather's ring skills, he unquestionably has a gift for getting people's attention. That made him the obvious choice for a comeback that has been designed far more as a mega spectacle than a mega sporting event.

Naturally, that narrative is bound to rub some folks raw.

Mayweather is already the sport's all-time clear-cut cash cow, and the receipts from Aug. 26 will no doubt reinforce that reality about 400 million times. He's also one of the greatest showmen the game has seen, as the pre-circus press tour illustrated across four cities, three countries and two continents.

That part of his legacy won't change here. Neither will the grief he gets from purists who steadfastly refuse to include him in their top 10s, 15s and 20s because of the perception (flawed as it may be) that he's failed to pursue the toughest fights.

Wrapping up against a guy who's making his pro debut—the ultimate low-risk money grab—won't help those matters any.

Eric Jamison/Associated Press

Lest anyone forget the matchup—don't.

As boxing goes, McGregor is no Canelo Alvarez, whose middleweight title fight with Gennady Golovkin in September is the party Oscar De La Hoya so desperately wants to save. Alvarez has been a champion in two weight classes, but when he got in with Mayweather in 2013, he was so overmatched it took imperceptive judge CJ Ross to consider the fight competitive.

That was an elite, full-time boxer.

McGregor is a famous novice who got slapped around by sparring partner Chris van Heerden.

So when Mayweather goes around trumpeting "TBE" (The Best Ever) and "50-0" in the aftermath, it will suck for his haters.

But if you're Floyd, who cares?

Short of beating Triple-G, Andre Ward and Anthony Joshua in the same weekend—let alone the talented but non-scintillating flotsam at 147—there was no room for Mayweather to tangibly move the career-definition needle.

While unbeaten welterweights Keith Thurman and Errol Spence would make for intriguing old star-young lion moments, neither they nor any others are on the level of casual fan recognition that McGregor has already reached.

So if you're Floyd, why not rake in a few hundred million dollars while standing still?

We get it: McGregor doesn't stand a chance.

Neither does anyone else with a boxing resume.

In this case, Mayweather is the Harlem Globetrotters and McGregor is a JV reserveskilled in his own way but inexperienced and in over his head playing a new game.

But, oh, the other possibilities.

For all his issues, Mayweather helped create modern boxing publicity during his 24/7 days at HBO, fueling his persona as an old-school wrestling-style character fans either loved or hated.

The apple hasn't fallen far from the tree when it comes to McGregor, who's taking a page from the Money playbook whenever he takes to social media. Now, the student faces the professor.

It's not quite the same storyline for the dirt-poor-turned-filthy-rich McGregor, but he too will leave Las Vegas in late August with enough cash to fund 401(k) plans into the 22nd century. Like Mayweather, he's floated the idea of wrapping up his career with senses intact, which provides the possibility that the two will ride off into the sunset in a motorcade of custom Bugattis.

Some will welcome the extravaganza. Others will gripe until the opening bell.

But don't blame Mayweather. He's just doing what superstars do.

And he dares you not to watch.