Whether you love the idea or utterly despise it, the chances of a Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor boxing match are real, and the narrative isn't likely to go away until the two combat sports superstars stand across a ring from one another.
Over the past few weeks, the discussion surrounding a Mayweather and McGregor fight has gone from mere fantasy to true reality. In fact, as more time passes, the odds of what was once a laughable, barbershop-talk-type matchup climb significantly.
There is still a long, long (possibly very long) way to go and endless details to sort before anything becomes official, but at this point it should be crystal clear the cross-sport bout is no longer just hypothetical. Real work is being put in to bring it to fruition.
McGregor's willingness to participate has never been in doubt. Mainly because he has the most to gain. The UFC Lightweight champion has repeated time and time again that he wants a piece of Mayweather inside the boxing ring, and he has no problem putting his red-hot MMA career on hold to do that.
"I believe the next time I step into a combat arena, it will be through the ropes with eight-ounce gloves," McGregor said during an interview earlier this year in Manchester. "This is historic."
Actions speak louder than words, though, and the actions coming from all parties involved indicate real behind-the-scenes progress exists. It's more than just Mayweather and McGregor trying to keep in headlines during inactive competitive times. It could, and likely will, actually happen.
Although retirements in combat sports mean little to nothing, Mayweather recently revealed he was ending an 18-month retirement from boxing, which he announced in September 2015. There's a catch, however, because Mayweather isn't coming back for any old fight: He said it's only for McGregor.
"If I do fight, it’s only against Conor McGregor ... not against nobody else," Mayweather recently told ESNews. "This matchup is so intriguing. You have (a boxer) against an MMA fighter – one of the best MMA fighters ever."
An indicator of real developments stems from Mayweather's attitude. He's already attempting to sell McGregor as a legitimate, dangerous opponent for him in the boxing ring. For anyone who knows the intricacies of combat sports, that's borderline blasphemous.
McGregor is certainly a talented athlete with enough power in his strikes to force a fight to turn in his favor at any moment, but the reality is the brash Irishman has never competed in a pro boxing match. Not for five rounds, not for seven rounds, not for 10 rounds and certainly not for 12 championship rounds.
"The Notorious" may be taller, longer and heavier, but Mayweather has mastered the art of defense. He has only encountered trouble a handful of times throughout his illustrious career and has overcome every moment of adversity on his way to an unblemished 49-0 record in the ring.
Mayweather has perfected the game of taking calculated risks in his career. A McGregor fight has all the glitz and glamour of a mega-event capable of capturing the attention of a global audience, but ultimately Mayweather wouldn't put his more than 20-year undefeated streak on the line if he had serious doubts about the outcome. That's why he's propping McGregor up as a threat.
"He's a strong fighter, and when I look at his fights, he's a little faster than I thought he was," Mayweather said. "I think it will be so entertaining, if we can do it. If we can put a boxer with an MMA fighter. I can't overlook that guy."
Perhaps McGregor can shock the world, though, especially if arguably his biggest career rival doesn't see it as all that preposterous. Nate Diaz is considered one of the better boxers in the UFC and has shared the Octagon with McGregor for nearly 45 minutes between their two encounters at UFC 202 in August and UFC 196 in March 2016.
The fights were predominantly stand-up affairs, and while MMA obviously entails much more than just punching, Diaz said he's seen glimpses of McGregor's game which leads him to believe he could give Mayweather a handful.
"I think it's a big publicity stunt, but my take on a boxing match between the two: I think McGregor's got a good chance to make something happen in (the first) two or three rounds," Diaz told CSN Fights earlier this month. "But I think he's got an amateur style where he's only got good movement, good punches for six or eight minutes, and I think that's too amateur for Mayweather. I'm just saying he's got a puncher’s chance, if anything."
Although the perceived competitiveness of a potential McGregor vs. Mayweather fight leaves something to be desired, there's a simple, understandable reason why it's likely to materialize: Money.
Money is a language understood by all, and every side involved in Mayweather vs. McGregor stands to see massive financial gains. From the actual athletes and their management to promoters to pay-per-view distributors and much more, money is a massive motivator in pushing the fight through.
The upside for McGregor is the greatest of all, which is why he so desperately wants it. He would earn by far the biggest payday of his life to compete against Mayweather, even if he lost in humiliating fashion.
McGregor has shown he knows how to take a loss as well as anyone in combat sports. He rebounded from a UFC 196 loss to Diaz and still became the biggest star in his respective sport, so transitioning to boxing – where, again, he has no pro experience – to fight one of the best ever in Mayweather wouldn't do much harm to his reputation.
The only fighter in UFC history to simultaneously hold two championship belts isn't chasing the fight so he can be a prop for Mayweather to reach the elusive 50-0 mark in boxing, though. He truly believes in his chances of winning, and let the media know at a boxing event in New York City recently.
"Watch me take over boxing," McGregor exclaimed. "No one in this boxing game knows what's coming, trust me on that one. When I step in (the boxing ring), I'm going to shock the whole goddamn world. Trust me on that. Look me in the eyes – 28 years of age, confident as fuck. Long, rangy, dangerous with every hand. Trust me. I'm going to stop Floyd. You're all going to eat your words. The whole word is going to eat their words. I am boxing.”
Finding a financial arrangement which satisfies everyone will be the biggest roadblock in preventing the fight. Logistics, fight purses, revenue sharing, weight, rules and endless other details must be decided on before contracts are signed. That's no piece of cake when involving the likes of Mayweather and McGregor, who, as history has shown, will push for every dollar and potential advantage available to them.
Even if all the hurdles are successfully overcome, it's going to take the support of the UFC brass on McGregor's end to allow him to step in the ring with Mayweather. Although McGregor may view the situation differently, he is still contractually tied to the UFC for at least four more fights and will need cooperation from the promotion in order to box Mayweather.
UFC President Dana White has already flip-flopped his stance on the possible fight a number of times. He first said there was a better chance of him playing in the Super Bowl than booking the fight, then he offered the pair a sum of $25 million each to compete.
Shortly thereafter White said it was "far from being made," but then in his latest revelation told Conan on TBS what many already knew to be true: The financial upside is too significant to dismiss.
"I do think it's going to happen," White told Conan O'Brien. "I think it's going to be a tough deal. There are obviously a lot of egos involved in this deal and a lot of people, so that always makes it tougher. But on the flip side, there's so much money involved. ... I just don't see how it doesn't happen."
White also, in typical promoter fashion, joined Mayweather in hyping McGregor's chances of victory.
"Conor McGregor is huge," White said. "He's in the prime of his career. Floyd is 40. Floyd always had problems with southpaws. Conor is a southpaw, and Conor hits hard. When Conor hits people, they go (down). Floyd's definitely not knocking him out – that's for sure. I'm not saying that Conor would win this boxing match, but it sure makes it interesting."
Although each new comment and piece of information that comes out seems to bump up the percentage of Mayweather and McGregor eventually day standing across from each other in a boxing ring, there are no guarantees if and when it will happen.
Mayweather has publicly stated that June would be a good time frame for him, but Rolling Stone sources indicate September is a more realistic timeframe. Negotiations could hit a snag at any point, though, and the amount of time it took to make a Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao fight is proof of the challenges involved.
Money breaks down barriers and smooths roads, though, and with all that's at stake with Mayweather vs. McGregor, it seems increasingly unlikely even the biggest of egos would allow the opportunity to pass them by.