Trading Shots: Mayweather-McGregor gives fans what they'll pay for, but is that a good thing?

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Conor McGregor will box Floyd Mayweather in August, primarily for one reason: Many, many people will pay for it. Should we be grateful that combat sports are so responsive to consumers, or can that be a very bad thing at times? MMAjunkie columnist Ben Fowlkes and retired UFC and WEC fighter Danny Downes discuss.

Fowlkes: Gird your loins, Danny, for we have entered the summer of McMayweather. From now until Aug. 26 (or until one of them pulls out with an injury as the fight gods cackle from on high), we are going to hear a lot about this boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor. And when I say a lot, I mean a ridiculous amount.

In the end, if everything goes according to plan, our patience and endurance will be rewarded with what is likely to be an extremely one-sided fight for an extremely high pay-per-view price.

Of course, the reason they can charge so much is because we’ll pay that much. And the reason we’ll pay that much is because, whatever else we might say in the months to come, we really want to see this. As this New Yorker story points out, this is one of the unique things about combat sports. The market dictates the shape of the product. If enough people will pay for a fight, no matter how absurd it might be, chances are they’ll eventually get that fight.

Is that a good thing, though? Particularly in the case of McGregor-Mayweather, are we glad that the economics of the fight game are so immediately responsive to consumer demands? Or are we the kids who gorge ourselves on junk food and then can’t understand why we feel sick afterward?

Downes: I think I’ll respond to those questions with my favorite Fowlkes catchphrase: You’re creating a false dichotomy. I would argue that the fight game is responsive to fans’ demands, but only the demands the fight game itself created.

Nobody asked for Mayweather vs. McGregor until the two of them started hyping it up. Now that the deal is done, the promoters will spend the next couple months telling you why you need to buy this, even convincing you that it will be a competitive fight.

It’s like that scene in “The Devil Wears Prada” where Meryl Streep explains to Ann Hathaway how the fashion industry chooses the trends and styles, and you’re never exempt from it even when you think you’re making your own choices.

Although in this case, we’re not talking about Oscar de la Renta (or Oscar de la Hoya), but The Money Team. You can say a lot of things about Mayweather, but the man knows how to keep himself relevant. He’s 40 years old, he’s never been known for exciting fights, and he’s a domestic abuser. Yet he still finds ways to get people to throw down money to watch him compete.

Why? Why do we want to watch a 49-0 professional boxer fight an MMA fighter with no professional boxing experience? I include myself in that question. I’m not giving McGregor a 0 percent chance to win, but I’m also not giving him much more than that.

I assume that’s something we both agree on. But I’m also sure that both of us will watch it. Is it that the combined charisma of McMayweather too hard to resist, or is there something else here?

Fowlkes: You know, sometimes I wonder if meeting you was the worst thing that ever happened to me. Then you force me to watch a clip from “The Devil Wears Prada” and I’m sure of it.

There’s definitely something else here. The foundation for this entire project is the boxing vs. MMA debate. The same way MMA was built on the premise of throwing all the martial arts styles into one cage to see which one reigns supreme, this fight is based on the same basic idea.

The reason it’s taking place in the sport of boxing and not some sort of mixed rules middle ground is because a) Mayweather is the A side, so the mountain must come to Muhammad in this case, and b) MMA already is a mixed rules middle ground of sorts.

That compromise on McGregor’s part both raises and lowers the stakes. If he loses, hey, who expected him to outbox the best boxer? But then, he’s also going in there as MMA’s representative, and if he gets completely clowned I think it’s going to sting more than many of us realize right now.

But let’s be honest and admit that we’re not just paying for a fight here. What we’re paying for is an event. We’re paying for something that feels, whether rightly or wrongly, like history. A boxer at the top of his sport against an MMA fighter at the top of his. Two huge personalities clashing in one ring. A classic this-town-ain’t-big-enough-for-both-of-us showdown.

You know that big fight feeling? Know how you get these weird jitters just before it happens, even if you have no personal stake in the outcome? It’s all that drama and ceremony that gets cranked up full volume with the promise of a meaningful crescendo. That’s what we’re paying for. We’re paying to be a part of that collective feeling, and to feel it together all at the same time.

That’s what’s on offer here, and I think we know it even if we don’t always say it. We want that feeling, but we need huge, historic figures from both sports in order to get it. What I wonder is, once we’ve gotten it, will a part of us wish we hadn’t?

Downes: Even though you hurt my feelings on my first Father’s Day, I have to agree with you to a certain extent. The stakes are different here. McGregor is the top MMA draw, but I can’t think of any MMA fight that would get him this type of attention. We’d like to see him face Max Holloway or Tony Ferguson, but they don’t bring the drama or ceremony you mentioned.

We’ll enjoy the spectacle and the hype, but if the fight stinks, what do we have? A movie with a terrible ending can ruin the whole thing and I think that same principle applies to the fight game. Remember Mayweather vs. Pacquiao? That had a “big fight” feel and all the pomp and circumstance surrounding it. People who hadn’t cared about boxing in years crowded into bars or friends’ houses to watch it. Then the fight was dull and uninteresting.

How do you think fans look back at that fight now? They think it was a waste of money. No one speaks longingly about that fight. No one remembers all the hype and excitement surrounding it, either. A few people made a ton of money off it and millions of fans were disappointed. Mayweather vs. McGregor has a different wrinkle to it, but a gimmick can only get you so far.

There’s going to be a lot of wild speculation in the coming months. This fight will be all over television and radio. Your social media feeds are going to be inundated with lots of bad takes. It’s going to overshadow a lot of other legitimate contests in both boxing and MMA. When it’s all over, though, what will we have? We know that Mayweather vs. McGregor is good business, but will it be good sport?

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Danny Downes, a retired UFC and WEC fighter, is an MMAjunkie contributor who has also written for UFC.com and UFC 360. Follow them on twitter at @benfowlkesMMA and @dannyboydownes.

For more on “The Money Fight: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor,” check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

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