Written by: Remi Se
The MayMac World Tour: The kind of mess you have to attend to appreciate
Bringing Floyd “Money” Mayweather and “the Notorious” Conor McGregor on a world tour where you just hand them mics and let them go seemed like a no-brainer. Combat sports’ two biggest personalities spark a promotional whirlwind any time they open their mouths, what could go wrong? After four stops on the MayMac World Tour, the answer is just about everything. The tour ended up generating headlines like “is Conor McGregor a racist?” and “Floyd Mayweather calls Conor McGregor a homophobic slur” and questions like “How are the Jersey Shore guys filming a reunion and picking fights with Dillon Danis at the same time?” For four sloppy, over the top, borderlining on satire press conferences; the “biggest fight ever” felt more like the circus was in town and I found myself taking in the spectacle at the biggest mess of the bunch…and I had a great time.
There were microphone problems in LA, Toronto began the grumblings of racism and London saw a homophobic slur thrown out by Mayweather; but the issues for those three events paled in comparison to the Brooklyn leg of the tour. The fighters were over an hour and a half late, the racism charges grew to a new level and the fighters’ entourages nearly came to blows all in front of a rabid crowd. I sat for over two hours embracing the madness, asking people about their hot takes for the fight and getting some poor quality videos of the whole event because everyone slows down to take a peek at a car crash in the opposite lane right? If the press tour was a shit storm, this was the crescendo and yet the raucous crowd combined with the unintended comedy of the situation to make it all fun.
The crowd was extremely pro-Conor; to the point of chanting Dana White’s name and cascading boo’s on Rosie Perez and Sway for having the audacity to select an all-time great boxer to win a boxing match. Swizz Beats added to the absurdity by taking the opportunity to call out Timbaland for a producer’s battle, which actually worked to keep the crowd from turning on him. Dougie Fresh managed to have the most awkward crowd interaction that I have ever witnessed about an hour and a half after Conor Mcgregor and Floyd Mayweather were supposed to have taken the stage. He wasn’t there to perform, so instead he had the DJ throw on an old school hip hop mix and he danced a bit while the crowd got more and more impatient. The hip hop pioneer got no love from the young crowd, the only reaction he produced was the most enthusiastic boo session of the night at that point. Then, nearly two hours late, the fighters were finally announced.
At this point on the tour, the best material for Floyd and Conor had already been used up. Conor quoted Biggie and handed Floyd a copy of Jay-Z’s 4:44 album but proceeded to try and deflect racism claims in an awkward manner that ended with him humping the air as a “gift” for the “black females” in attendance. Floyd made it rain singles all over the stage and sent his goons to surround Conor by screaming “form Voltron” and nearly prompted a fight between Conor’s entourage and two security guards who literally could pass for Ronnie and the Situation from the Jersey Shore. If it was scripted, the writers failed miserably on this one; yet the crowd ate it up. This wasn’t a boxing press conference; it was a theater. The fans booed when Mayweather the heel spoke and Mayweather ate it up, making “kaching” noises over the boos. Conor as the unlikely hero in Brooklyn got a wave of reaction even as his behavior reached peak clownishness. It was forty-five minutes of pure showmanship for a crowd that was willing to treat it like an episode of Smackdown. They even treated Showtime’s resident speakers like Vince McMahon, the big bad boss putting their hero at a disadvantage for the bad guys. It felt contrived, but in the moment that didn’t much matter because it was just plain fun.
It was my conversations with groups of fans throughout the two hour wait that really illuminated the whole situation. While the vast majority were MMA fans, nearly every group I spoke with harbored at least one boxing fan that was routing for Floyd. This felt like a crossroads where MMA fans could talk about the techniques strikers employ for their sport while listening to input from consumers of the sweet science, boxing. Enthusiasm was through the roof but the people I spoke to were fairly grounded in their opinions, “I want Conor to win, but I realize it’s a long shot” was a common sentiment. Most fans were there for the spectacle and that’s probably why it was easy to get wrapped up in the scene. This is an opportunity for boxing fans and MMA fans to have real conversations about the nuances of their sports and the unknown factor is enough to draw a crowd. If there was one takeaway from attending that event, it’s that Irish people party hard…but a close second would be that this fight has a legitimate shot to outpace the benchmark for PPV buys set by Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
At the end of the night, walking past a mob of Conor fans waving Irish flags and shouting chants in unison, I couldn’t help but think that this is something different. It isn’t a boxing event or an MMA event like the typical ones we’ve witnessed. It ranges somewhere closer to the old Pride events and some Rizin events in its pageantry and willful embrace of “the show.” I hate that Floyd and Conor have constructed their “characters” around controversy. Conor needs to be called out as his comments touch a line that is unacceptable regardless of his intentions. Floyd likewise needs to be cautious with his choice of language as he toed sexist and homophobic lines. But in terms of pure entertainment value, this was Hulk Hogan and the Iron Sheik or John Cena vs whoever the biggest name available is. The fight itself is full of question marks; Occam’s Razor says to assume a one-sided match in favor of the boxer… but to look at the event through the prism of just another boxing match and to miss out on the charm that this whole thing carries. This event has crossover appeal. It is making headlines on websites and stations that rarely bat an eye at any boxing or mixed martial arts event. Men at the top of their sports virtually never put legacy on the line in such a manner that we would see the biggest earner in the history of MMA fighting the biggest earner and arguable GOAT of boxing. You can scoff at the actual logistics of the fight, but if you’re turning your back on the madness you’ll also be missing out on a lot of fun and a great chance to educate people who aren’t fans of MMA or boxing. This is a once in a lifetime event and combat sports fans ought to take it all in while accepting it for what it is, because we’re unlikely to ever see anything else quite like it.