Conor McGregor's only hope: Dial up the antics and get under Floyd Mayweather's skin

Dan Wetzel
Columnist

TORONTO – Speaking into a working microphone (this time), and to a rabid, yet supportive crowd (as always), Conor McGregor came to Canada on Wednesday and spent his afternoon ridiculing Floyd Mayweather in nearly every imaginable way – with profanity, politically incorrect comments and, mostly, biting humor.

Mayweather may have every advantage in their Aug. 26 boxing match in Las Vegas, but on this wild, free-wheeling, four-city, three-country promotional tour, it’s McGregor’s game they are playing. Mayweather is one hell of a promoter, but McGregor is a showman for the ages.

The problem is it probably won’t help him come fight night.

Despite gray skies and a light rain, over 10,000 rowdy fans descended on an outdoor, lake-front amphitheater here to watch McGregor strut around and mercilessly mock Mayweather.

He hit Mayweather on The Money Team casual attire – “He looks like a little break dancer … You’re 40 years old, dress your age.”

He hit Mayweather on the strip club he owns in Vegas – “Fifty strippers on his payroll. At least Rob Kardashian only had one.”

He hit Mayweather on his less-educated background – “You can’t read.”

“I don’t read,” Mayweather shot back later, quickly shifting to his ability to bank dollars as the world’s highest-paid athlete. “I do numbers. I make money.”

“You owe money,” McGregor interrupted, slamming Mayweather for his recent $22 million IRS lien, which will be handled with part of his earnings for the bout, which projects to be the richest prize fight in history.

The crowd soon started chanting, “Pay Your Taxes.”

Floyd Mayweather (L) and Conor McGregor yell at each other during their news conference on Wednesday in Toronto. (Getty)

Toronto in particular, and Canada in general, is an MMA stronghold. It is such a reliable market for the Ultimate Fighting Championship that the promotion routinely stages shows up here, including its first ever in a stadium, drawing 55,000-plus back in 2011.

As such, Mayweather never really stood a chance. This was a McGregor event. When McGregor hit, the crowd roared. When Mayweather countered, they booed.

There was a classic tell in McGregor’s comments, though, a sign that he was thinking about more than just selling $99.99 pay-per-views. McGregor isn’t the greatest fighter, but he is a very clever and calculating one. So while he wants to show the people a good time, he also wants to rattle Mayweather, upset him enough to move him off his game and into an act of ill-advised fight-night rage.

The proof came when he mentioned his December 2015 bout against Jose Aldo, a man that was then on a 10-year unbeaten streak and considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC.

“They said the same thing then as they are saying now,” McGregor crowed. “They said I had no chance. They said I’m in over my head. They said he kicks too hard. They said he had too many weapons.

“It took me two whole seconds …”

Actually, 13 seconds, but the specifics don’t matter. McGregor spent years – not merely months – in the buildup to the fight hammering and humiliating Aldo with his sharp tongue and vicious wit. He was so relentless on the soft-spoken Brazilian that when they squared off at the weigh-in, he noticed Aldo’s right hand, twitching. McGregor then, before the fight, predicted to the English-speaking media how it would end.

“He’s ready to unload that right hand and I feel that could be the downfall for him,” McGregor predicted. “If he lets that right hand go, I will not be there … I will create traps and dead spaces in the Octagon. I will walk him into that dead space. All of a sudden, he will be in danger.”

Sure enough, Aldo, who should have sat back and tried to get McGregor to the ground, charged at the opening bell and threw a wild right that grazed McGregor. It also led Aldo into that predicted dead space, where a McGregor left ended the fight in an instant.

It was “Mystic Mac” at his finest. It also represents one of the few paths to victory he can attempt in a boxing match against the 49-0 Mayweather: Get him so mad that he tries to kill you and then counter with a knockout.

“It’s hard to believe he can out-point Floyd Mayweather,” UFC president Dana White said Wednesday. “It’s a fight, though. When guys are throwing punches, anything can happen.”

Sure, unless Mayweather is cautious and simply ducks them all. Which is why the antagonize game isn’t just worth a try, it may be the only try.

“His head is too small,” McGregor cracked, while questioning Mayweather’s toughness and durability. “One shot is all it will take. He hasn’t fought a day in his life. He’s a runner. He’s boxing’s biggest [expletive].”

Except … there was Mayweather standing behind the amphitheater after the promotional show Wednesday, laughing at McGregor’s one-liners, brushing off any concerns about what got said and nodding approval at McGregor’s hustle.

If one of the goals here is to get under Mayweather’s skin, it doesn’t appear to be working.

“It’s about giving the people entertainment,” Mayweather said calmly. “People want to be entertained. And I think both press conferences [here and Tuesday in Los Angeles] have been unbelievable.

“I mean, I’m not upset with him,” Mayweather continued. “It’s not like the guy has done something harsh to me. It has nothing to do with talking. I’ve been world champion for 19 years. I’ve never been overthrown. It’s all about keeping my composure. Anytime I went out there and competed against the best guys in boxing, I kept my composure. I went out there and executed the gameplan … I’m the best in the business. We have to be sharp. We have to be smart.”

It’s worth pointing this out: At the two lengthy staredowns here, Floyd Mayweather’s hand never twitched. And it’s unlikely it ever will.