Braun Strowman is making headlines, and not all of them have to do with his WWE Universal Championship match at No Mercy on Sunday.
The Monster Among Men recently spoke to Justin Barrasso from Sports Illustrated on a variety of topics, including his rise in WWE and his feud with Roman Reigns. Strowman also had something to say about the man believed to be the most controversial figure in combat sports, Conor McGregor.
"McGregor might make it on 205 Live," said Strowman, "but he doesn't want to step in the ring with me."
Strowman doesn't know how right he is.
At first glance, Strowman's comment seemed to have come from out of nowhere. McGregor has been fairly quiet since his August 27 boxing loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr.. It's not as if McGregor called Strowman out or has taken any unnecessary jabs at WWE.
At least he hasn't lately.
McGregor has had plenty to say about pro wrestling in the past of course. Taking shots at the business was his new favorite hobby at one time. WWE fans know to either take his criticism on the chin and learn to live with them or blow a fuse and rally against him.
For a good number of fans, the latter will always be the correct response.
Fans may differ on every topic imaginable, but when it comes to defending the sport against outsiders? That's something that everyone can get behind. McGregor may be respected as a tough fighter and hailed as a marketable showman, but he's not a WWE Superstar. At least not yet.
Speculation has run rampant for years that one day McGregor will step into a WWE ring. That speculation intensifies whenever he takes a shot at the company or when Superstars fire shots back at him. Fans are now talking about him again, thanks to the SI interview.
Maybe this time, it's more than just speculation.
McGregor's full-blown heel persona was in rare form leading up to the Mayweather fight. He was loud. He was boisterous. He was fearless. He was everything a pro wrestling personality should be and then some. McGregor was doing a better job of being a heel than some heels working in WWE today.
He talked fans into the building for that fight. He talked them out of their hard-earned money to buy the event on pay-per-view. McGregor talked until the moment the opening bell rang on his fight with Mayweather.
But if he does decide to try WWE, McGregor will have to do much more than just talk.
Being accepted in WWE by the men and women in the locker room is a big deal, and that kind of acceptance isn't just handed out—it's earned. Any talent that's hopeful to get a foothold in the company must prove that he or she has "it" and is willing to work hard in order to cultivate "it."
Showing up and looking the part is not enough. Showing up and relying on a resume is not enough either. Respect comes when it's shown first.
That's the key to any potential McGregor/WWE partnership. The Notorious cannot just come in for a payday, which is what many believed he did when he fought Mayweather. McGregor must humble himself before WWE and the world, which he most certainly would do.
McGregor has been called arrogant, conceited and verbally abusive in the past. But he's also been called smart. That means underneath his gruff exterior exists a man that understands how to play the game and plays it better than anyone else.
If the day comes that he does strike some kind of deal with WWE, McGregor will be ready to play that game once again.
Behind the scenes, he would surely be ready to work and he would certainly be ready to impress. He would undoubtedly cooperate with his trainers when it came to preparing him for his WWE debut, and when the time came to get physical in the ring, he would definitely be ready.
But not only would he have to learn how to work in a pro wrestling ring, he would also have to learn to adapt to the grind. WWE Superstars don't just work matches on TV; they work on the road as well. Monday Night Raw and SmackDown Live are held in smaller towns and bigger cities all over the country every week.
WWE also travels the world, of course, forcing its talent to leave their family and friends behind. Would McGregor be willing to commit to such a lifestyle?
Of course it's the work between the ropes that has been questioned the most. Pro wrestling may be predetermined, but the physical damage that talents endure is very real. Could McGregor actually learn the business and build himself as a legitimate hand? Would he then be able to perfect his skills night in and night out? He would no longer be able to train for months for a fight that lasts a handful of minutes; he would have to get in the ring and show off every time WWE came to town.
Or would he get a sweetheart deal, in which he worked a very limited number of appearances per year? Either way, if he didn't learn how to convincingly work in the ring, fans would never accept him. If he can't connect to them, then he doesn't have a chance of making it in WWE.
It may still seem like such a speculative stretch for many, but it may not be such a crazy notion after all. McGregor has conquered in UFC. He crossed over to professional boxing and did much better than many ever believed he would. Why wouldn't he take a shot at pro wrestling?
But the question of whether or not he would be an immediate draw would certainly be asked before WWE even considered him for a shot. Who would McGregor have to be paired with in order to make the headlines that he craves? Strowman's quote may have been nothing more than a backhanded comment, but it's also very telling as well.
At 5'9" and 154 pounds (the weight he made for the Mayweather bout), McGregor would be dwarfed by anyone he could face in WWE, with the exception of the 205 Live Superstars. Even if he was booked against a super heavyweight like Strowman or even against a guy like Kevin Owens, would McGregor be an instant draw? Or would fans see through it, realize he could never hold his own against a veteran or a bigger guy, then tune out?
The fact is McGregor would need a lot of time and fans would need a lot of patience. If he were seven feet and 300 pounds, this would likely not even be an issue. Even though McGregor's words make him seem like a bulletproof giant, his physical stature is the complete opposite.
However, from a marketing standpoint, WWE would be foolish to not consider the possibility of bringing McGregor in for something. Even if it was a limited run, the amount of money to be made on both sides would surely be massive.
The mainstream media exposure WWE could receive would be priceless.
But McGregor would have to be ready mentally as well as physically. He would have to take it seriously and he would need to prepare himself for the toll that life in WWE would take on his body. He's 29 now and if the day ever came when he wanted to try WWE, he would surely have at least some quality years ahead of him.
Whether or not that actually happens, of course, remains to be seen.
Tom Clark can regularly be seen on Bleacher Report. His podcast, Tom Clark's Main Event, is available on iTunes, Google Play, iHeart Radio, Amazon Android, Windows Phone and online at boinkstudios.com.