BROOKLYN–The four-city, three-country press tour for the upcoming Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor fight–which takes place on August 26–was overflowing with tremendous theater. The shameless pageantry, antics and shenanigans between the two polarizing fighters, each a gargantuan box office draw in their respective sport, made it pure spectacle. Last Thursday evening, I attended the third stop, this time in New York City at the Barclays Center, and it was there where it truly began to take on a life of its own.
I mean, where do I even begin?
Well, first a little background as to how I ended up there. I was in New York to cover GLORY 43 and when I found out the May-Mac tour would be in Brooklyn, I jumped at the chance to cover it. A solid twofer of combat sports is never a bad thing. However, due to the high demand of media, Mr. Stets–much to his chagrin–did not get approved for credentials. But that wasn’t going to stop me. I had to see it live, even if only as a fan in the crowd while my contemporaries had media access and obviously, much better seats than me.
That’s when hurdle No. 2 arose: tickets, although free, were no longer available. Crestfallen from being denied access, and now just mystified by the irony of being in town only to not be able to go, my dear friend Thomas–who had originally intended to attend–offered his ticket to me because he was unable to go. “Just go be a fan for this one,” he said. Ecstatic, I gladly accepted his offer and headed down to the Barclays Center–to attend as a fan.
Now, there were so many moving parts to this traveling carnival, and so many different things going on that it truly made your head spin. Bronx rapper and UFC fan Swizz Beatz took to the stage to hype up the raucous crowd of over 13,000 first. Next up was Doug E. Fresh, who was delightedly happy, rapping and dancing along to old classics being spun by the DJ. The Barclays Center crowd, mostly McGregor fans, roared every time the UFC lightweight champion’s name was mentioned. And booed lustily, as loud as the cheers for McGregor, whenever Mayweather’s name was mentioned. And of course, There were Irish flags aplenty being waved with pride, and “ole, ole, ole” chants by the McGregor faithful breaking out every few minutes.
There were some Mayweather fans in the house too, but their numbers paled in comparison to those in town for “The Notorious.”
By the way this was all during a prolonged waiting period before the event even started. And, boy, was there a lot of waiting.
The doors actually opened at 5:30 pm ET. Full disclosure: I got there around 7 pm, which was when the show was scheduled to start. I knew after watching the first two stops begin late, there was no need to rush to the arena. Both fighters, who skipped their pre-show media duties weren’t even in the building yet while the highlight reels were playing to kill time. McGregor, who was out shopping on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, arrived a little after 8pm. Mayweather, channeling his inner Axl Rose, would enter the building last.
Finally, around 8:30pm the festivities would commence.
There I sat in section 15, row 16, seat 3, and–you guessed it–smack dab in the middle of McGregor fans, taking it all in. I began chatting it up with a McGregor fan sitting next to me. I asked him what he thought about McGregor’s chances against Mayweather when the two collide inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. in a little over a month.
“I’ve doubted him several times before and he’s proved me wrong every time,” said Allan, a fan from Dublin now living in New York, fully believing in the powers of “Mystic Mac.
Allan, who said he became a fan of McGregor because he “breaks the trend of Irish athletes by being brash and outspoken,” predicted McGregor would catch Mayweather in the fifth round to win by knockout. I know, I know, big shocker right?
By this time–and much to the delight of his fans–McGregor was making his way to the stage. And as far as grand entrances are concerned, I’m not sure this one can be topped. Shirtless, clad in only pants with a wild floral pattern, designer sunglasses, and a white mink coat emblazoned with a dragon on the back, McGregor waltzed on to the ramp and the crowd went berserk.
Next up was Mayweather, who once mocked Oscar De La Hoya by wearing a giant sombrero to the ring, making his way to the stage draped in the Irish flag, drawing heat from the crowd like a heel straight out of WWE’s heyday, and dropping the flag on the ground for emphasis. And make no mistake, this whole thing is 100 percent more pro wrestling than it is MMA or boxing. Without question, it would win the approval of one Vince McMahon. And just in case you wondering, the two were formally invited to RAW by Triple H.
After a staredown between Mayweather and McGregor kicked things off, Showtime’s Brian Custer made his way to the lectern and was welcomed by a chorus of boos. Custer announced Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment CEO Brett Yormark, who was then booed off the stage. Boos so loud they drowned out the audio. Next up was Showtime Sports executive vice president Stephen Espinoza–he too was booed off the stage. Then Dana White, who was cheered. And then there was McGregor, who sent the Brooklyn fans into a frenzy.
The 29-year-old Irish champion wasn’t exactly on his “A” game as far as trash talk is concerned, but the fans were eating up anything he said and beaming with smiles from ear to ear. Now, it’s important to note that MMA fans can often be easily amused like a teenager hearing their favorite band curse in a song for the first time, or say, a child laughing at monkeys flinging poop in the zoo. It usually doesn’t take much. They love trash talk in pretty much any form, so to them, whatever McGregor was saying–which included plenty of profanity–it was all aces. At least from my vantage point anyways.
McGregor gave Mayweather the new Jay-Z CD, he called 50 Cent (a former friend of Mayweather’s) a b*tch (which was a bit strange) and praised the late Brooklyn rap artist The Notorious B.I.G., which earned a big pop from the crowd. He then addressed the recent talk on how he was accused of being racist for saying “dance for me boy” to Mayweather in LA on the first stop of the press tour.
“Let’s address race. A lot of the media seem to be saying I’m against black people. That’s absolutely f***ing ridiculous. Do they not know I’m half black? I’m half black from the belly button down,” said McGregor, trying his hand at being a stand-up comedian.
“And just so that’s squashed, here’s a little present for my beautiful black female fans,” he continued, gyrating his hips to simulate having sex.
The UFC lightweight champion said “F*ck you” to the few Mayweather fans, who booed him. McGregor referred to his coat as “Polar bear,” called Espinoza a “weasel” and closed by telling Mayweather and his fans to “suck his d**k.” It was explicit, lewd, crude and yet somehow it fit into the framework of everything this upcoming fight is built upon: ego, hubris and shameless self-promotion. Seriously, it was like the biggest segment of WWE’s RAW that never happened.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” I said to the McGregor fan next to me.
“Me either,” said Mario, a fan from Boston, who was in D.C. for business and made the trek to Brooklyn to see the tour. Unlike a lot of the other hardcore McGregor fans, though, Mario is more of a realist, who’s not quite sure how the brash Irishman can defeat the 49-0 boxing legend.
“Mayweather is one of the greatest boxers of all time,” Mario said. I don’t see how Conor beats him.
“Money,” 40, began with his usual “hard work” chant, but the former five-division champion wasn’t getting much love from the Brooklyn crowd. Mayweather paced back and forth, at one point gave props to UFC president Dana White, and, of course, spoke about why he is considered one of the greatest boxers of all time. And, oh yeah, cursed like a sailor like McGregor had before him.
“Nobody knows that squared circle like me,” he boasted. “I know angles. I know where to touch you at. I know what you don’t like. I don’t have to watch your tapes. That’s something I’m blessed with. But, he’s unorthodox. So it’ll definitely be something different in the ring. I just have to keep my composure.”
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any nuttier, Mayweather pulled out stacks of dollar bills and began flinging them up in the air in McGregor’s direction. It was a wild moment to witness and one that will assuredly become an indelible image that will forever be etched in the annals of combat sports. As I watched all the bills filter through the air, it reminded me of how silly this whole thing is, but also how uncontrollably drawn I am to watching it.
When Mayweather said, “Form Voltron” and had his bodyguards and cronies all walked over to McGregor in a menacing manner, things got a little bit heated on the stage. Of course, I knew nothing was going to go down and no punches would be thrown, but fans’ eyes were widening everywhere I looked from my seat in section 15. Try telling them that.
Covering this circus, it’s easy to nod and wink, or chuckle at what is transpiring. But it’s also easy to forget how invested these fans really are. How else can you explain how two fighters are filling arenas because fans just simply want to hear both of them talk trash?
My folks went to see Pope John Paul at Yankee Stadium in 1979. I looked at my mother funny when she told me about this when I was 10 because I couldn’t quite grasp the fact that people would fill a stadium to attend mass. Fast forward 30 years to being in the arena for the May-Mac World Tour, and I thought about that day and felt like my mom would’ve certainly passed judgment on me for attending this event–and definitely would’ve called me a hypocrite if she were still alive today.
After the opposing sides were split up, the presser probably should’ve ended right there, but it continued on past its climax like a bad Saturday Night Live skit that refuses to end. The constant stream of F-bombs and chest puffing was starting to become stale, but yet no fans were leaving early.
I certainly wasn’t.
Finally, into the 9pm hour, and after yet another stare down between the two fighters, they called it a day. As fans began heading to the exits, I spotted a Mayweather fan who was rocking a “TMT” hoodie. I asked him his prediction on how the fight was going to go down.
“I think Mayweather will embarrass him,” said Ray from Jamaica, Queens. The lifelong Mayweather fan doesn’t think “Money” will get the KO, though. “I think Floyd is just going to make Conor look bad for all 12 rounds,” he said.
As I was walking down Atlantic Avenue and making my way to the subway, to the left of me I heard, “That was dope!,” from a fan who was also leaving the Barclays Center. Mark, a Queens native, said he’s a fan of both Mayweather and McGregor, and is looking forward to watching the highly anticipated matchup. His prediction is one that’s been bandied about quite often since the super fight was announced back in June.
“If McGregor can catch him, I think he can knock him out,” Mark said. “But if not, then Mayweather is going to win a lopsided decision.”
I grabbed the train to make my way back to Manhattan to meet up with my fiance Lauren, who had already caught wind of McGregor’s crazy outfit and some of the nuttiness that transpired and was peppering me with questions about what else went down. That’s when I struck up a conversation with another Mayweather fan, who endured being on the receiving end of heckling and boos for the duration of the press conference–the result of wearing his “TMT” hoodie.
“I was surrounded by McGregor fans in my section,” said Rushy, a Mayweather fan from Manhattan. Once he sat down he engaged with some playful chatter with a few McGregor fans a few seats down from him. “I got booed the entire time,” he said.
Rushy, a longtime boxing fan, was the most educated fan I spoke to that night. He had vast knowledge of Mayweather’s career and past opponents. We talked about Mayweather’s last fight against Andre Berto and the huge difference between MMA and boxing among many other things. According to him, McGregor is “easily” the best opponent Mayweather has ever had in terms of being a great foil and selling a fight. The die-hard Mayweather fan said he loves the big build up to the upcoming bout, and is fully confident “Money” will make quick work of McGregor inside the T-Mobile Arena on August 26.
“I think Floyd will knock him out in under six rounds,” Rushy said, before exiting the train for his stop at Fulton Street.
After experiencing the show in Brooklyn and interacting with fans of either fighter, it became quite clear that no one cares about the huge disparity in pure boxing skill between McGregor, who’s never fought in a professional boxing match, and Mayweather, who’s been boxing longer than McGregor has been alive. They want the show. The build up. The craziness. The over-the-top pomp and circumstance. And they will continue fiending for it until they get their fix. Millions of them will be forking over $99.95 of their hard-earned money to order the fight on pay-per-view, and I truly believe it will eclipse the record for boxing PPV buys, 4.4 million, which was set when Mayweather fought Manny Pacquiao in 2015. In fact, I think it will do over 6 million.
So as I sat on the 2 train, smiling to myself while still processing what I had just witnessed, I felt fortunate to have attended the May-Mac World Tour stop in Brooklyn, especially after I almost didn’t go at all. I had asked plenty of questions to fans, but I hadn’t yet asked one of myself.
Do I want to see more of this craziness before the fight happens on August 26?
As Mayweather has said over and over again on this tour, “Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh!”