If Conor McGregor says he will knock Floyd Mayweather out, grab your wallet because ‘Mystic Mac’ is a sure thing
The pound-for-pound boxing king who calls himself ‘Money’ may be the smart choice but the UFC star has made a career of backing up his big mouth
Conor McGregor has never forgotten his roots in Crumlin, an area of Dublin, Ireland.
The former apprentice plumber remembers picking up a welfare cheque days before he won a fight as he tried to establish himself on the Irish mixed martial arts scene.
“It’s mind-blowing. But I never forget the struggles. I never forget where I came from. I never ever forget the hard times,” McGregor, 28, said.
“When things were really bad I didn’t have a pot to p*** in. Really, nothing. I’m not a stupid guy and it was hard standing in a dole queue.”
It is that single-minded determination that has made him the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) biggest superstar and earned him the unlikeliest of showdowns in a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather, coaxing the undefeated American to come out of retirement for a US$100 million payday.
But it’s too easy to think McGregor is just there to earn a pay cheque that will set him and his family up for life without having to throw another punch.
If McGregor says he’s going to knock out Mayweather in two rounds, then get your wallet out because ‘Mystic Mac’ is the closest thing there is to a sure bet in combat sports.
McGregor has made a habit of shutting doubters up throughout his rise to superstardom in MMA.
“You can call me Mystic Mac because I predict these things,” he said, after delivering on his promise to knock out Dustin Poirier at UFC 178 in September 2014.
It was his most high-profile fight to date against a guy who had the most wins and finishes in the history of the UFC featherweight division.
Still, critics claimed he was just a brash, trash-talking flash in the pan despite following that up with second-round finishes against top-10 opponents Dennis Siver and Chad Mendes.
Even after he knocked out the fearsome, undefeated Brazilian Jose Aldo with one punch inside 13 seconds to claim the UFC featherweight title, people said he got lucky.
McGregor again proved his mettle by avenging the only defeat of his UFC career against the taller, heavier Nate Diaz after winning their lightweight rematch by a majority decision in a five-round instant classic at UFC 202 last summer.
Still, some claimed he was lucky to get the decision, and many even tipped lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to end his dream of becoming the first competitor to simultaneously hold championships in two divisions.
But he toyed with Alvarez at Madison Square Garden before knocking him out in the second round, and finally his brilliance and dominance could no longer be denied.
As Alvarez wobbled around the Octagon, it was clear that, pound-for-pound, McGregor possessed the most devastating punching power in all of UFC.
This is hardly a novice who has never pulled on a pair of boxing gloves. He started out boxing training as a teenager in Ireland before switching to mixed martial arts; he also trained extensively in the “sweet science” in the build-up to the rematch with Diaz, whose boxing skills are considered among the best in MMA.
It was perhaps when he saw Diaz crumple to the mat several times that he realised he might be able to back up his big mouth against Mayweather.
So confident is he in his boxing ability that he stuck with long-time coach Joe Kavanagh and refused to bring in a specialist boxing trainer to his camp for the Mayweather fight.
“Keep believing in your ability. Look at everyone around you and celebrate them. Don’t think you’ve got to go somewhere else,” McGregor said.
“That’s the sign of a weak-minded fighter. My team stays my team. [Boxing’s] a different discipline, but fighting is fighting. And we are masters at fighting, a different breed.
“That’s the secret to success. Celebrate your surroundings and you will succeed. Don’t, and you’re going away from yourself and you’re just another guy on another guy’s team. You’re just a tourist.”
McGregor’s punching power is his surest shot at victory. In footage posted by UFC president Dana White on Instagram, McGregor appeared to rough up former two-weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi in a sparring session.
A post shared by Dana White (@danawhite) on Aug 11, 2017 at 8:46pm PDT
“You got your a** whooped,” McGregor taunted Malignaggi when the American showed up in Las Vegas to confront the Irishman this week.
But Mayweather is no stranger to hard hitters.
“Manny Pacquiao got bombs, Canelo [Alvarez] got bombs, Shane Mosley got bombs. But remember this – I got a great chin. And the same way you give it, you’ve got to be able to take it.”
That was Mayweather in his prime, though.
The 40-year-old was likely just trying to sell a few more pay-per-view buys when he suggested in interviews he has “lost a step”. But, undeniably, he is not the same fighter he was 10 years ago, let alone in the same shape as when he went 49-0 in his last fight against Andre Berto in 2015.
On paper it is an unwinnable fight for McGregor, but he is at his most dangerous when he has a point to prove.
“This is a fight that’s been in my crosshairs since Floyd has been opening his mouth. Not since he’s been speaking my name, but since he’s been speaking bad about mixed martial arts. He’s been speaking ill about it multiple times,” McGregor said.
“I’m going to knock him out. He’s too small. I know he’s fast. I know he has good reflexes. I don’t care. I hit you, you fall. Eight ounces? He’ll be unconscious inside two rounds.”
If there’s one thing we’ve learnt, it’s not to bet against Mystic Mac.