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LAS VEGAS — The Ka Theatre inside the MGM Grand Hotel on Wednesday afternoon was overloaded with media and microphones. The much-anticipated Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor press conference for their Saturday fight was about to begin.
Yet, there were a couple things missing.
The atmosphere was subdued, sterile and businesslike. It was a far cry from the four-stop, three-country press tour of July, which played out in front of rowdy 10,000-plus crowds who spent the time chanting, singing, drinking and causing a general ruckus. The fighters, playing off the energy of the throng, both entertained and horrified people watching around the globe.
This was not that. This was a boxing press conference, staid and slow – albeit with the requisite Corona Girls standing at attention.
“I think after the reception these guys got, they don’t want fans near this place,” UFC president Dana White told Yahoo Sports, noting the overwhelmingly pro-McGregor crowds that turned out for the media tour. “If I was them, and I got booed off every stage in the planet, I wouldn’t have any fans in here, either.”
Actually, boxing press conferences traditionally don’t have fans in attendance. Neither do the NFL, NBA or other sports. So this wasn’t so much a strategic move, as it was consistent with tradition. The UFC has been far more open to its customers – “We always have fans, we let the fans come in,” White said.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the lack of boos and cheers and laughs fit precisely into Mayweather’s state of mind. With the fight days away, he appeared relaxed and focused, unwilling to allow McGregor to bait him, knock him or draw him into a concentration-rattling battle.
McGregor certainly tried.
“I will break this old man,” the 29-year-old McGregor said of the 40-year-old.
“I don’t see him lasting two rounds,” McGregor predicted. “I feel I will have the decision to end it within one.”
“I’m going to [expletive Mayweather] up, make no mistake,” McGregor taunted.
There was more. It never mattered. Mayweather hardly blinked, stopping the momentum of the insults dead in their tracks. During periods where McGregor had the microphone and was answering questions, Mayweather often wandered around the stage, talking quietly to his business partner Leonard Ellerbe or shaking hands with MGM security guards.
On multiple occasions members of The Money Team who were in attendance shouted insults at McGregor, perhaps out of habit. One, trainer and former Olympian Nate Jones, yelled, “Time to get your ass kicked.”
“Not by you, anyway, you little fool, whoever you are,” McGregor shouted back, getting riled.
Mayweather immediately began waving a finger at Jones. Later he told him to “conduct yourself in an orderly manner.” He clearly wanted to avoid any incidents.
McGregor piled on.
“Exactly, tell that [expletive] to shut his mouth,” McGregor said. “Carry yourself with class mate or your paychecks will stop coming.”
Mayweather still wouldn’t react.
“One of his guys started saying something,” McGregor said after. “And I was rising, but whatever. This was a lot more subdued.”
No fans. No fireworks.
“Was the fans not allowed?” McGregor asked later. “They don’t tell us nothing. I didn’t know what it was going to be. I just roll with it now. It was just media today? I’d like to have known that, but hey, whatever. I enjoyed it.”
Mayweather is 49-0 and it isn’t just because of his brilliant physical skills. He’s a master at avoiding trouble in the ring and bending fights to his advantage. In this one, as the far more experienced and better boxer, a by-the-book bout favors him. McGregor, who has never fought as a professional boxer, would benefit from a wild brawl.
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McGregor prefers chaos. He became a two-division champion in the UFC in part by throwing opponents off their game before the opening bell. He’s stolen opponent’s championship belts, gotten into pushing matches and was fined $25,000 and ordered to do 25 hours of community service for a water-bottle throwing battle with Nate Diaz at a 2016 press conference. His often-outlandish talk draws almost everyone in.
No dice this time.
“I’m going to go out there and do what I do best,” Mayweather said calmly. “Fight, be smart, take my time and be victorious.”
He considered McGregor’s insults to be nothing new, hardly worthy of reaction.
“We do this every day at the Mayweather Boxing Club,” Mayweather said. “Every day we have younger fighters and older fighters with a lot of experience going at it, talking a lot of trash and having fighters being in each other’s ears.”
Eventually the press conference sagged to an end, just a few questions, with little electricity. They lined the fighters up and Mayweather basically just stood there as McGregor barked a few words in his face.
They’ll see each other Friday at the weigh-in. Mayweather got out of here with exactly what he wanted … nothing. McGregor was not able to incite anything close to a riot or draw inspiration or enjoyment from a crowd that would have been on his side.
He said he did take solace in the few words that he did hear from Floyd Mayweather.
“He’s beaten,” McGregor said. “I can tell in his voice.”