Is Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s MMA dream ridiculous? Not so much if you follow the money

Combat columnist
Yahoo Sports

If Floyd Mayweather Jr. ever did fight in the UFC, know this: It would be the biggest gate, and the biggest pay-per-view, in history, and it might go so high that the records would last for decades.

Mayweather’s debut in the Octagon would start counting – start – at five million pay-per-views, but it could go significantly higher.

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At $100 or $150 a pop, it would have a chance to generate $1 billion in gross revenue in a single night.

If you doubt Mayweather when he tells TMZ that he’s serious about a fight in the UFC, remember that. Like the source known as “Deep Throat” told Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they were trying to unravel the secrets of Watergate, whenever you think it’s ridiculous that Mayweather may compete in mixed martial arts, follow the money.

This would be a worldwide event like nothing seen before in combat sports.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. is looking to bring his trademark style to the cage. (Getty)
Floyd Mayweather Jr. is looking to bring his trademark style to the cage. (Getty)

Mayweather confirmed to TMZ that UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will train him. In that interview, Mayweather rated his wrestling a seven on a scale of 1-to-10 and his kicking a four. His hands, he said, were “a hundred” on the 1-to-10 scale.

While Mayweather refers to himself as “TBE” or, “The Best Ever,” in boxing, even that’s a stretch. Sugar Ray Robinson was the best by a long shot. That, though, doesn’t diminish what Mayweather did during a career in which he went 50-0 and won world titles at 130, 135, 140, 147 and 154. While he’s not the best ever, he’s among the best ever.

But MMA and boxing are, as was noted repeatedly in the build-up to Mayweather’s 2017 boxing match with Conor McGregor, similar but ultimately significantly different sports.

If Mayweather had decided in 1998, or 2000, or even 2005, to learn MMA, he would have been one of the best to ever do it.

But he didn’t, and now he’s 41, and he admitted to TMZ that he’s going to begin training with Woodley in several weeks. He estimated it would take him six-to-eight months of work with Woodley to be ready to compete in the UFC.

That would push him closer to his 42nd birthday than his 41st.

Now, one should recognize he’s not looking to make a career as an MMA fighter. If he did, it would be for one but no more than three bouts.

Mayweather realized early in his pro boxing career that great talent alone wouldn’t make him a superstar. He had to generate a reaction from people, move them in some way to make them either passionate followers or bitter detractors. He knew the worst thing that could happen to a boxer who needed to sell tickets and pay-per-views was for the audience to have no opinion about him, for fight fans not to care one way or another.

And in the early stages of his career, that is exactly what he faced. The guy who would go on to become the greatest pay-per-view attraction in boxing history and one of its biggest ticket sellers, struggled to fill an arena to 50 percent capacity in his early years as a pro.

By early 2000, and perhaps a year or 18 months earlier than that, Mayweather was the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. But the focus in his early years as a pro was not on his brilliance in the ring, but on the fact that the 1996 Olympic bronze medalist couldn’t sell tickets.

It wasn’t until 2007, after he defeated Oscar De La Hoya in what at that point was the biggest pay-per-view match in boxing history, was Mayweather widely recognized for his boxing genius.

By that point, he’d long since figured out how to manipulate the audience.

When he fought De La Hoya, De La Hoya was, quite literally, boxing’s golden boy. He was adored by fans and the media, and treated with a gentle touch by HBO, the network with which he’d had a fruitful relationship for more than a decade.

Mayweather turned things upside down. He didn’t meekly thank De La Hoya for the opportunity, as so many others had done. He taunted De La Hoya. He brought out a chicken with a gold medal on its neck at one news conference. He had members of his team steal a lunch that was being delivered to De La Hoya.

He played the heel perfectly, and fans paid in the hope of seeing De La Hoya give him his comeuppance.

Now, more than a decade after he conquered De La Hoya and became boxing’s biggest attraction, Mayweather is so big that he calls his own shots. If he wants to fight in the UFC, he’ll fight in the UFC.

Does he really, though? It just doesn’t add up. This seems more likely some sort of marketing ploy, or Mayweather playing with the media and the fans, rather than a serious attempt to cross over into mixed martial arts.

Many elite fighters crave attention so it’s hard for them when they retire. Look at De La Hoya, who since retiring and being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame has repeatedly talked about a comeback. He suggested he might fight middleweight king Gennady Golovkin and later said he was in training to fight McGregor.

It’s hard to walk away from the spotlight. Mayweather is also a brilliant marketer, who could be doing a long ad. In the videos he released of himself in a cage, he had “Paddy Power” written on the side of his trunks, and he asked the camera at one point, “What are the odds, Paddy? What are the odds?”

It’s important to note that Paddy Power is an Irish sportsbook.

Of course, “Money” Mayweather might be serious about it just because he knows he’d sell five million, or maybe eight or 10 million on pay-per-view, and would bring home a half-billion (or more) dollars in one night. That’s hard to say no to.

It is unlikely he’ll fight in the UFC, maybe extremely unlikely.

If he does, though, people will be lining up all over the world to watch it. And that is why the prospect of Mayweather fighting in the Octagon can’t be fully dismissed as a lark.

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