As hard as it is to believe, a whole year has passed since Conor McGregor took on Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring, strictly to prove to a skeptical public that all things are possible (except maybe beating Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring). What was that…that…thing we all gladly went through together, like a giant game of truth or dare? It was a lot of things to a lot of people.
For McGregor, it was a monstrous payday. For Mayweather, ditto, plus a chance to jack up the cover charge at his Girl Collection for all the visiting media in Las Vegas. For Dana White, it was a life preserver for an otherwise bad year. For Showtime, it was a leathery smirk. Drake got an opportunity to be Drake, and Audie Attar got to wear loafers with no socks. For boxing fans, it was like discovering the number “666” on the back of their collective heads. For boxing media, it was a travesty — further proof that boxing, like rock & roll, was long dead. Teddy Atlas, it might be remembered, was grumpy the whole freaking week.
Or, more grumpy than usual.
As for MMA fans? Well, it was bittersweet. A year later it feels like an interesting but ultimately forgettable one-night stand. A bling fling. A little regrettable, a lot out-of-character — something you laugh off with friends, and marvel that it ever happened to begin with. We saw the fight after a few beers on a night out, and fell into conversation is all. Pretty innocent, if only it had stopped there. Soon enough we were setting fire to our inhibitions, and the fight itself was reapplying its lipstick on a four-stop world tour. In the moonlit night, it looked pretty good, even if in Brooklyn Conor appeared as a brightly plumed pimp and made juvenile, below-the-belt jokes to clear up any accusations of him being a racist after calling Floyd “boy” in Los Angeles. These were but flirtations. Conor wore Gucci well, no doubt. Besides, Floyd didn’t seem to mind.
At a year removed, I can say this confidently — the bartender definitely over-served us.
The fight, from an MMA side of things, was enthralling at the start yet soon turned anti-climactic. The first three rounds “The King” was on top. There was still a little triumph in the air at the conquest itself, still that exhilarating feeling of, “how did we end up here?” As the fight drug on, though, it got a little blurry. A car alarm outside disturbed the fantasy, and the radio clock kept reminding everyone of the absurd hour. By the time Conor finally went to sleep, the reflections began. The booze wore off, and as the sun came up the piecing back together of events took over…
Conor throwing money in the air in Toronto…Floyd shouting “Hard Work,” and the patrons shouting back “Dedication!”…Paulie Malignaggi’s jealous confrontation…people whispering about Dana’s Zuffa Boxing shirt…“Biggest Fight in History!”…chants of “49-1, 49-1”…chants of “Mystic Mac!”…oh, and the Weasel. Wasn’t there a Weasel? How did we let ourselves end up in a boxing ring? Why was there elephant dung on the bottom of our shoes in the morning? Did we visit a circus at some point in the night? We should have closed the damn tab.
The fight hurriedly dressed itself in quotes — Jesus, had it been wearing quotes for the night before? — and left without a goodbye. What a relief that it was done and gone and over.
Within days, after hearing from some of Floyd’s other partners, the doubts began to creep in. As good as we thought Conor performed, perhaps the bout was faking its excitement a little bit. Maybe Floyd was carrying Conor in the early part of the bout. The memes began to surface of Conor getting the snot beat out of him, images that felt particularly cruel when looked at in broad daylight while totally sober. Conor a boxer? Those were strong mojitos.
Obviously now that McGregor is back in MMA and trying to be faithful, it’s easier to laugh at his foray into the boxing ring. It was a one-night deal, didn’t mean anything. Floyd tried to call, wanting to come visit MMA, but it didn’t amount to much. Even a loose sport like MMA has standards. Mayweather and McGregor cashed in once, and that was plenty. Now McGregor’s back in a steady relationship with his octagon. For now anyway.
The thing is, May-Mac was an adventure — an experience. The signs of a dupe were always in play, but taking part in a cultural event tends to feel historic. Sometimes you’ve got to live! And sometimes you’ve got to live and learn. Why not be enchanted by the partition coming down between an undefeated boxer and a two-division MMA champion in his prime? Why not get intoxicated by something so unfathomable, that it compels us all — the skeptics and the believers alike — to look?
Because retrospect is undefeated against hysteria.
The “imagine if Conor wins” narrative was powerful, and so was the pending sense of Conor’s comeuppance. It was a night of hedonism and deliriousness, an out-of-bounds event that captured the purest form of our spontaneity, in which the principals were compelling and the libido was money. In the moment, it was something.
A year later, it all just feels silly.