UFC President Dana White is a smart, outrageous and incendiary dude who has built an empire – which is more than I can say for myself, so kudos to him. He’s accomplished a truly incredible amount for a business man with a fuse that’s already lit at the start of 97% of his interactions.
So while I am not here to judge his aptitude as a fight promoter, it’s hard not to question his sanity sometimes a lot of the time.
Then again, it’s hard to argue crazy with sanity – which I think is the guiding principle surrounding his recent disagreement with boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya. Per White’s own admission, he and De La Hoya get along very well and don’t really have any pre-existing beef, which is why he was perplexed when the boxer posted a Facebook statement declaring the increasingly likely fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor to be nothing but a money grab and a “circus” that undermines the sport of boxing altogether.
Boxing is starting to dig out of the hole that Floyd and Manny Pacquiao shoveled by waiting seven years to put on a fight that ended up being as dull as it was anti-climactic…
But if you thought Mayweather/Pacquiao was a black eye for our sport – a matchup between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters that simply didn’t deliver — just wait until the best boxer of a generation dismantles someone who has never boxed competitively at any level – amateur or professional.Our sport might not ever recover.
I fully understand the initial attraction from any fan of combat sports. McGregor is almost certainly the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter. Floyd is Floyd — the most dominant boxer of his time.
But success in one sport does not guarantee success in another. Far from it. And let’s be clear, these are two different sports — from the size of the gloves fighters wear, to the size and shape of the ring, to the fact the one sport allows combatants to use their legs to strike.
Now De La Hoya isn’t notoriously the most stable man himself, and he has his own reasons for wanting boxing to enter a new golden age – outside of his love of the sport. His Golden Boy Promotions represents a whole slew of fighters, including Canelo Álvarez.
However he’s not wrong. There’s no world in which Floyd Mayweather loses a boxing match to Conor McGregor. It’s not happening. Even in a Marvel superhero universe where there are alternate realities and diverging timelines, Mayweather doesn’t lose a boxing match to McGregor. Even the most diehard MMA fan, in their quiet moments alone, knows deep in the depths of their psyche that they’re more likely to witness an invasion of alien unicorns than a UFC champion beating one of the greatest boxers of his era in a boxing match.
As De Lay Hoya points out in his post, that’s absolutely no judgement on the quality of fighter that McGregor is. Another professional boxer hasn’t beaten Mayweather. This would be like asking Lebron James to cover Rob Gronkowski one-on-one for an entire football game. His physical gifts, size and athleticism don’t much matter in the end – because you know, he doesn’t know the ins and outs of professional football let alone possess the elite skills necessary to defend one of the greatest tight ends of all time.
Because White is no idiot, he knows De La Hoya is right. He just happens to think that the fight should happen whether it’s good idea or not, because the people have demanded it.
“Is it a weird fight? Yeah,” White said. “I’ve said it many times, this isn’t in the best interest of my business to do this fight with Floyd Mayweather. This is the fight that both these guys want. You guys are baseball writers and you’re asking me about this fight.
“It’s the fight that people want to see. At the end of the day, as a fight promoter, even when it’s not in my best interest, you have to put on the fights that people want to see.”
This is brilliant. Sure it’s a complete cop out, but the strategy behind this statement is impressive. White wants the fight to happen, because it’s a huge draw for MMA and UFC. But he also doesn’t want to go all in on a losing battle and then have his credibility questioned for thinking that McGregor could ever hold his own against Mayweather in a boxing match, because the optics on that would be brutal. So he figured out a way to cover his own ass but not explicitly saying that McGregor can’t win the match, but rather that it’s “not in the best interest” of his business.
I gotta give it to the man, he is good.