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Nevada commission’s Bob Bennett: Money had nothing to do with approving Mayweather vs. McGregor

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Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor has a chance to approach a billion dollars in revenue. It could end up being the biggest money-making combat sports event ever.

Nevada Athletic Commission executive director Bob Bennett, though, said he cannot factor business into his decisions on approving fights. And the dollar signs did not come into play when deciding to sanction and regulate Mayweather vs. McGregor, either, he told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.

“I take a look at each fighter’s record,” Bennett said. “I have a standard operating procedure that I use and when it comes to finances, I don’t even want to hear about it. The money does not enter into my position as an executive director.”

Health and safety of the athletes does and Bennett firmly believes that those two things will not be breached in the Aug. 26 bout at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas more than any other boxing match or MMA fight. The decision to approve the bout has come under some criticism since Mayweather is an undefeated boxing champion — one of the best of all time — and McGregor, though a UFC champ, has no professional boxing bouts on his record.

“Conor is the younger, stronger, the longer, more powerful puncher,” Bennett said. “As you know in the UFC, he fought featherweight, lightweight, welterweight. His record is 21-3 in MMA —17 of those wins have come by way of KO or TKO. So he’s a premier striker, knockout artist. He’s a young, aggressive warrior who believes he’s gonna win. And that attitude unto itself makes it very dangerous.”

Bennett said he sat down with McGregor’s agent Audie Attar three times to make sure McGregor was familiar with the unified rules of boxing and the Nevada commission’s particular rules, some of which are different than others. Bennett said during those meetings with Attar, he watched video of McGregor boxing. He also said he consulted boxing trainers, like Virgil Hunter, who coaches the likes of Andre Ward and other prominent athletes.

Hunter, Bennett said, told him that he has brought in UFC fighter Nate Diaz to work with boxers like Ward, Brandon Gonzalez and Andrzej Fonfara on multiple occasions. McGregor, of course, has a win over Diaz and has knocked him down several times in two fights.

“Mr. Hunter thought that if Nate really wanted to be a professional fighter, he would have been a world-class boxer,” Bennett said. “But instead he chose to go the MMA route.”

Bennett said other commission directors did reach out to him about the fight, some saying they would not have licensed it. Bennett said that was not brought into his or his commission’s choice.

“But seeing is believing,” Bennett said. “Because it is an approvable fight. That didn’t really have any bearing on whether we would approve it or not. I’m known as an executive director to be very conservative in approving fights, whether they MMA or boxing. I have a format that I go by that I had to deviate a little from. Because this is unprecedented. It is historic. Both these guys are phenomenal athletes. I took a real close look at Conor, because everybody knows Floyd. He’s 49-0, arguably the best defense in the history of boxing. Future Hall of Famer. Conor is a young warrior coming up.”

Bennett also is not sure if these other commissions around the country would actually have denied Mayweather vs. McGregor if it came across their desks.

“I do think if this fight came to any other commission, they would more than likely — if they did their homework — they would approve it,” Bennett said. “Based on facts, not on dollars.”

The money, he promised, did not enter his mind when he put a stamp on one of the biggest combat sports events of all time.

“When it comes to the finances, I cut the people off right away, respectfully,” Bennett said, “because it does not enter into the equation on whether or not I approve a fight.”