Dana White has told CNN he’ll strive to make the crossover bout happen, and delight mixed martial arts and boxing fans alike, even though it would make “zero cents” for his business.
Even for an industry which prides itself on selling its own wares expertly, the speculation machine has gone into overdrive regarding the prospect of UFC’s biggest draw, McGregor, switching codes in an attempt to inflict the first ever professional defeat of Mayweather’s storied boxing career.
For his own part, Mayweather, who proudly boasts a 49-0 record, has supposedly retired. But the lure of a rumored payday in excess of $100m — with McGregor reportedly in line for approximately $75m — is making the bout likelier to happen, rather than wither on the boxing vine like so many prospective fights.
And from White’s perspective, despite UFC isn’t set to benefit financially from the contest, the fact the Irishman has “done a lot of big things for this company” is another reason “I will do the Mayweather-McGregor fight, because I think he deserves it.”
But the feeling persists that if the UFC megastar is embarrassed by Mayweather inside the boxing ring, it could do real damage to White’s product — not to mention the literal and metaphorical pain inflicted on McGregor’s body and ego.
“If you look at this thing, McGregor will walk into boxing, a completely different sport than what we do here,” White explained in an interview with CNN at his company’s new headquarters in Las Vegas.
“If this was a mixed martial art fight against Floyd Mayweather it would last 15 seconds. Floyd wouldn’t last 15 seconds with Conor McGregor.
“Conor McGregor will last more than 15 seconds with Floyd Mayweather. Conor McGregor will make a fight of it. He’s going into a completely different sport and he’s willing to do it and people want to see it so we’ll give it a shot.”
There remains much work to be done on the negotiating front before Mayweather vs. McGregor becomes a reality, just this weekend a supposed date for the bout was taken for the Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin fight.
But in White’s own words: “I’m pretty confident that we could probably get it done.”
The always ebullient White revealed that when it comes to communicating with his sport’s superstar, their method of discourse might not be the most obvious: direct messages on Twitter.
“Conor and I have always dealt very well with each other,” White noted. “We DM each other through Twitter, that’s how we communicate. I call him the unicorn. He’s a very unique individual. There will never be another Conor McGregor. There will be another star but there will never be another Conor McGregor.”
Yet even White’s patience has been tried by his most challenging of athletes when it comes to the area of timekeeping. “I can sit here all day and compliment Conor McGregor on a million different things,” White says, with a smile on his face.
“His willingness to show up on time to media events is the one thing that drives me crazy about Conor McGregor. I don’t accept it.
“I do the best I can to let him know that I’m not happy about it and that he needs to show up on time for these things.”
If the richest fight in boxing history does get signed, it’s a sure bet that McGregor won’t be late for the opening bell.
Is Rousey finished?
Meanwhile, White told CNN Ronda Rousey will never fight again in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
And while that’s an opinion that has been doing the rounds ever since her crushing back-to-back defeats over the past 18 months, the words carry extra weight when they come from the mouth of the sport’s figurehead.
He was adamant the 30-year-old Rousey, who has done so much to turn mixed martial arts into one of the most prominent combat sports on the planet, is “ready to move on.”
White said: “She hasn’t told me she’s going to retire but I think she will,” says the 47-year-old.
“She made a lot of money, she made a huge impact on the sport. Women’s mixed martial arts wouldn’t exist right now if it wasn’t for Ronda Rousey and she can go away having left an amazing legacy and an incredible career.”
When pushed further on whether White feels this way because of Rousey’s shocking losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, he explained: “Her and I are super close, we’re very good friends and you know just like you would talk to any friend who just went through a loss or a hard time, you’re there for support and she’s always going to be a part of this company no matter what her future is right now… She hasn’t told me she’s retiring but I think she’ll retire.
“I think she’s ready to move on. She’s made a lot of money, and she’s accomplished a lot of things and I think she’s probably going to move on now and whatever’s next, she’s determined, she’s smart, she’s talented.
“Whatever she chooses to do next I’m sure she’d be great at it.”
White is wrestling with plenty of changes in the business which has made him one of the supremos of global sport.
Just last year, he oversaw the sale of UFC to talent agency WME-IMG for a reported $4 billion, yet continues as president, minority owner, promoter and, arguably, the face of the sport. And he manages to juggle all these tasks with his tongue firmly in his cheek: “This sport is funny,” he states.
“It’s the toughest, nastiest, baddest sport in the world, yet it’s like a big hair salon. Everybody’s pointing the finger and talking about everybody and everybody’s upset, mad, and gossiping and it’s like a soap opera.
“It just goes on day after day and it keeps the fans interested, it builds new fights, and it creates new story lines and it all just plays out. You couldn’t write this stuff better, it is what it is.”