Carnival Barking: The Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather Fight

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls: Gather ’round and witness the amazing Fightin’ Irishman do battle with the Undefeated, Untied Champeeeeeen of the World in a 12-round bout of fisticuffs! Fought under Marquess of Queensberry Rules, this showdown pitting two titans of the fight game is unlike anything your eyes have ever seen…

…And your eyes will never see it, no matter how loud carnival barkers from the Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather camps shout.

Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com reported Friday the latest development in the Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather crossover fight: McGregor applied for a boxing license in Nevada.

A Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight will not happen.

The flood of news emanating from McGregor’s circles, including UFC president Dana White and McGregor himself, is the 21st century version of a Vaudevillian carnival barker luring in marks and pulling a bait-and-switch.

Every public grandstand on McGregor’s behalf bolsters the MMA fighter’s profile to levels no UFC talent has reached, save Ronda Rousey and “Rampage” Jackson having turns in Hollywood. Rousey and Rampage differed, however. Both approached the twilight of their fighting careers when they appeared in movies. Jackson went 2-4 in the two-and-a-half years following his starring role in The A-Team, and Rousey is 1-2 with back-to-back knockout losses since co-starring in Entourage. McGregor’s at the peak of his fighting career.

McGregor exudes charisma — perhaps more than either Jackson or Rousey. His on-camera demeanor would make him a solid choice for an action film, or right at home in the main event of a WWE pay-per-view. That is much as a draw for a McGregor fight as his prowess in the octagon, and has made him the sport’s highest-paid athlete.

McGregor’s played up his gimmick to lengths bordering on absurd, most recently getting into a bottle-throwing melee with Nate Diaz ahead of a pay-per-view last summer.

No one in combat sports plays up the carny elements that were fundamental to boxing’s growth at the turn of the 20th century quite as effectively as McGregor. Stoking the unrealistic rumors of a Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather dream bout is that carniness taken to its logical conclusion.

For McGregor, the benefit is greater exposure and more viewers turning to UFC. The UFC can beat its chest over its top fighter having the fortitude to challenge the most recognized boxer in the world, train in his fighting style, fill out the necessary paperwork, only for him to balk.

And make no mistake, Mayweather will balk. He has no reason to do anything else.

The rumored price tag to lure Mayweather out of retirement and into a match against an opponent with 0 professional boxing matches is $100 million. Having gone undefeated and bowed out as champion, Mayweather’s at the point when he need not ever step into a ring again unless it’s for an astronomical paycheck, and fighting in an exhibition for the pure spectacle of it.

Mayweather is indeed in the pure spectacle part of his career, not unlike Muhammad Ali in 1976. But a spectacle can have serious consequences.

The Greatest accepted a bout with Japanese puroresu legend Antonio Inoki in ’76, in made-for-TV event inspired the bout pitting Rocky Balboa against Thunderlips in Rocky III. This exhibition was no work.

Inoki may have worked as a pro wrestler, but his background in karate was legit. So were the repeated kicks Inoki landed on Ali’s legs, which sent The Greatest to a hospital afterwards. The bout helped to accelerate the already-rapidly approaching end of Ali’s career.

Plans for Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather call for a true boxing match, which is even less motivation to bring Mayweather to the ring. Beating a rookie in a sport he’s mastered accomplishes nothing — save a big, fat pay day.

And really, that’s the entire ethos behind carnival-barking: separate a mark from his money. Considering the attention already paid it — and the irony of me devoting these words to it isn’t lost on me — it seems McGregor and UFC are already successful.