The uncomfortable topic of race came up quickly on the MayMac World Tour last month.
Conor McGregor drew criticism on the first stop in Los Angeles after he told Floyd Mayweather to dance for him, referring to the African American boxing star as “boy.” McGregor used similar language a day later in Toronto and then in New York, on the third stop of the tour, it boiled over.
On stage in Brooklyn, McGregor said he would address the race issue in front of the more than 10,000 in attendance. McGregor said he couldn’t be racist, because he was “half black” — “black from the belly button down.” He then did a gyrating dance for what he called his “beautiful black female fans.”
McGregor has called many past opponents “boy,” no matter their race, but it was a backstage interview with “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that caused the most uproar in Toronto. McGregor was asked about the movie Rocky 3 and he asked if that was the film with the “dancing monkeys in the gym.” While it’s unclear exactly what McGregor was referring to, many outlets pointed to the fact that Rocky 3 was the sequel in which Rocky Balboa went to train in an all-black gym.
The video has since been removed from the show’s YouTube page.
Mayweather was unhappy with what he felt was McGregor’s disrespect of him, his family and African Americans after the New York tour stop. And he expanded more on that Tuesday night in an interview with Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“I just didn’t like when he called us monkeys,” Mayweather said. “I think that was totally disrespect. … He called us monkeys. I didn’t like it. It didn’t push a button to make me jump out of my character and go crazy, but I didn’t like it.”
McGregor, who is from Ireland, called any talk that he is racist “f*cking ridiculous” after the Brooklyn tour stop. He did admit on the fourth and final stop in London that his comments in front of the crowd in New York didn’t hit right. McGregor said he was trying to make light of the situation, but it didn’t work the way he hoped.
“It didn’t really hit right,” McGregor said. “I’m just gonna stay where it is and leave it out. I know who I am as a person. I think most realistic people can look and know.”
Mayweather said he was upset with McGregor on the tour for those comments, but didn’t let it show on stage. The two men — Mayweather, an all-time boxing great, and McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion — will meet in a boxing match Aug. 26 in Las Vegas.
“I just thought about all our different leaders,” Mayweather said on ESPN. “Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. They went on the front line for me and my family and all my loved ones. Like I said before, this stuff still goes on. But I’m strong, I’m smart, patient. And come Aug. 26, I’ll be the same person — smart, strong, patient. And the same way he called us monkeys, we’re gonna see if he say that Aug. 26.”
Smith asked Mayweather if all of McGregor’s talk would motivate him or if this was just another fight camp.
“No different,” Mayweather said. “But this is for a cause. This is for the American people. This is for all the blacks around the world.”
McGregor did not appreciate Mayweather bringing up racism during the tour. In London, he made a vague reference to Mayweather’s past prison stint for domestic violence. Mayweather also let loose with a homophobic slur on stage on that final tour stop.
“You can be fooled by him if you want to be fooled by him,” McGregor said. “You know the man’s character, you know his history. He’s trying to sway the people in his favor. I think it was a cheap, little [play]. … I was trying to address something in my own little way. But whatever. It is what it is. I had fun with it last night. If he feels disrespected, well he’s an idiot and then f*ck him as well.”