Next month’s Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor contest that crosses sports and crosses over into mainstream entertainment. I just came back from the launch of the promotional tour, the press conference at the Staples Center. It was the first time Money and the Notorious one have crossed paths, and it was a memorable spectacle.
I attended the event with amateur UK MMA fighter OJ Entertainment. Here are some notes and insight from today’s monumental event.
- It was hyped that the Stapes Center would be filled because of the enormity of this event, and it was nearly full. It was incredible seeing nearly 20,000 people in attendance to watch a press conference.
- There were live performances leading into the arrivals of the two superstars, but the crowd didn’t truly come alive until Conor McGregor arrived to a thunderous ovation. He was clearly the fan favorite for this match. McGregor came in looking GQ smooth in a fitted suit, and he was clearly enjoying the moment.
- Mayweather arrived to a chorus of boos, and he played into it with heel facial expressions and mannerisms. Many started an “IRS” and “pay your taxes” chant due to recent headlines.
- There were some ill conceived introduction speeches by organizers of the event that nobody cared to see. A rep for the T-Mobile Arena in Vegas was heavily jeered, and it was obvious that the impatient audience was ready to see the two competitors trade verbal jabs.
- Dana White woke the frustrated crowd up when he took the stage to a huge ovation to introduce the biggest star in MMA. It also reaffirmed that UFC is clearly seen as the cooler sport
- McGregor took the stand first and gave a characteristically brash promo that he was unafraid of Floyd, and that his confidence and ferociousness would assure victory. It was a profanity-laden speech that showcased his gift on the microphone. Pro wrestling can really learn from him, not in terms of letting swear words on air, but from the intensity and attitude that comes across in non-scripted promos. The crowd was solidly behind him, and he was eating up the applause. He got serious about how hard he had worked to achieve his success, but he was also just a young guy having fun.
- The UFC champ proceeded to make fun of Mayweather’s wardrobe, and he gloated that he had the guts to go into the boxing ring, but Floyd couldn’t take the challenge to enter the Octagon. He stated that this was not even a real fight, but it was a “quarter of a fight” because the real fights take place in UFC. Conor then talked about how it is rare that fighters crossover into the general pop culture consciousness. He even brought up the infamous Muhammad Ali versus Antonio Inoki match from decades ago. It was clear he was a pro wrestling fan as it had obviously influenced his character. I am not an MMA fan, so this was my first time seeing him live, but he exhibits more style, charisma, and cool factor than anyone in the pro wrestling industry has in years. He also brilliantly framed the match as a no-lose situation for him because he was the one willing to enter Mayweather’s sport for the first time.
- Mayweather then took center stage and he was booed heavily. He looked arrogant in a gaudy red, white and blue TMT hoodie. He had an arrogant expression on his face and he was unfazed by the negative response. The censors were off as he returned an expletive-filled tirade. It seemed like he was the more calm and confident fighter, and that made sense because it was his sport, and he was the older veteran. The merchandise stands were full of Mayweather merchandise, and he was introduced as the greatest attraction in sports and entertainment. This even is definitely a Money Team production.
- Money was brilliant in his portrayal of the cocky heel who could back it up. He laughed that Conor “only” made three million dollars in his last fight. He bragged that he was not a seven-figure fighter and not even an eight-figure fighter. He was the first nine-figure fighter. Watching this, it made it seem even more ridiculous that WWE tried to introduce him as a babyface. It made O.J. and I really question the judgement of the people in charge of their creative.
- The conference ended in predictable fashion with Mayweather and McGregor head to head exchanging pleasantries. Dana White got in between them, but the goofy smile on his face made it seem like the whole confrontation was staged. In reality, they should all be smiling because it could be the biggest payday in their careers.
- The Los Angeles fans were happy with the spectacle and, although I do not watch boxing or MMA, I felt like I was part of history.
Hopefully WWE was watching this because it should influence them to format their television shows in a way where they feature their wrestlers in compelling programs that build to dream matches. Here are some quick lessons wrestling could learn from the build to the Mayweather versus McGregor match.
- Let the wrestlers find their own voice and take the chains off to allow them to cut their own promos and unleash their charisma and their true characters. Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock may have never become the spectacular performers they became if they were so tightly scripted.
- Focus on building to major matches more than comedy and lame skits. The success of the recent Brock Lesnar-Samoa Joe and Lesnar-Goldberg programs showcased that fans crave the spectacle of two larger-than-life figures clashing on a grand stage. This makes more money than cheesy “sports entertainment” goofiness.
- Put the emphasis of the show around the wrestlers and have the promoters and authority figures building them up as world-class athletes. I love the pageantry and the spectacle of wrestling, but I want it in the context of a show that has an internal logic and builds its characters as performers we are lucky to see.
It is fitting that the initial crossing of paths between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor took place in Los Angeles because it had the drama, heroes and villains of a Hollywood movie. I ran into some of Mayweather’s Money Team in the parking lot and talked to his entourage about how brilliantly they had built their brand. Hopefully WWE takes note and realizes that sometimes the biggest stars in sports can be bad guys, and maybe Roman Reigns’s true path to face of the company maybe that of the guy the people love to hate.
Speaking of Money, check out the link to our latest episode of our new show, The Pro Wrestling Top 5. This week, my broadcast partner, former Pro Wrestling Dot Net Editor Rich Twilling and I discuss the Top 5 Money in the Bank Cash-Ins of All Time HERE.
Follow Shawn and send questions, comments, and feedback on Twitter @shawnvalentino and follow his show on Twitter: @WrestlingTop5