And just like the spectacle has come to an end.
After months of non-stop promotion, article after article, sound bite after sound bite, and even a somewhat lame four city promotional tour, including my home, Toronto, Mayweather vs. McGregor finally sounded off this weekend, ending emphatically after a 10th round TKO.
From the moment McGregor and his camp instigated the idea of this fight with UFC President Dana White, and convinced Floyd Mayweather to come out of retirement for one last fight (with the speculation of back taxes to be paid) it has been nothing short of a well-planned, and at times dysfunctional, theatrical production with the main goal to make all parties’ pockets deeper except the pay-per-view audiences shelling out $100 to watch the fight.
This was a fixed mismatch from the outset. There was no way a 49-0 veteran boxing champion was going to lose to an MMA fighter who per contractual agreement had to adhere to several rules mostly pertaining to not “fight like an MMA fighter”. At best the promoters were hoping to generate enough intrigue around the history making matchup of contrasting fighting styles to turn interest into ticket sales and PPV orders.
They were right. There was interest. Initially. They both got their social media game on. McGregor built his persona and posted the rare meme about Mayweather’s age while Mayweather the businessman used social media to promote other fights on the card, rebranded himself as a family man, and even gave his sponsors some shine. Then things got stupid. And out of hand. Unnecessary comments from the fighters related to racial connotations and homophobic slurs, quickly led to a growing number of people becoming disinterested, myself included.
I’m not a huge boxing fan and even less a fan of the aforementioned Mayweather’s style of fighting or McGregor’s at times disingenuous demeanor. Daily media stories leaked, by the promoters of course, to generate some enthusiasm, for example Mayweather saying he’s not the fighter he used to be and this could be a tough match, and McGregor’s Twitter battle with sparring partner and former two-weight boxing world champion Paulie Malignaggi.
It didn’t work. As the fight got closer, ticket sales were bleak and the popular ongoing theme was “does anyone really care?” I know I didn’t. Most people had correctly called out the charade for what it was- a money grab (I mean, Mayweather’s camp is called “The Money Team”).
I don’t blame them, plus we already had summer sports entertainment. Between the NBA offseason drama (Kyrie Irving playing drama queen to King James) and the NFL preseason, Mayweather vs. McGregor was an afterthought. Until the weekend of the fight. Then the media when into double time and I couldn’t stop hearing about it.
Post after post on all my social media sites were filled with fight night previews, analysis, or whatever to cover the event. Non-sports pages like Forbes, Business Insider, Inc.com, and many others somehow unveiled a new found interest in covering boxing. Suddenly it seemed everyone I knew had a fight party to attend and the buzz for the fight the day leading up to it was bigger that anyone would have thought. And rightfully on queue I found myself swept up in the hype, muddled in this mess of a sports event, and eventually choosing to cheer for Floyd, going as far as to posting “TMT” on my Instagram stories feed.
Yes, Mayweather won the fight, McGregor held his own, and it was more of an entertaining match then a “great” fight as some have been saying. But the power of social media made this fight what it was. This fight was DOA and was eventually revived by social media users worldwide. The interaction of thoughts, opinions, blog posts, articles, and bootleg live streams from Periscope (yes people still use it) steadily elevated the hype right up to Saturday Night. Then it was like, “What else could you possibly be doing right now but this?”
Unlike watching the heavyweights of the 80’s and 90’s, social media today allows us to get a 360 degree view of any event popular enough to cover. It also gives us a glimpse into how this all got started to begin with.
From a piece by Chad Dundas of Bleacher Report, when McGregor’s quote in Esquire Magazine stated, “If I fought Floyd, I would kill him in less than 30 seconds” came to light, it was all over social media. When Mayweather started to mention the possibility of a match, the same thing occurred. All the shares, likes, retweets, etc., were something McGregor, UFC and TMT could not look past.
And that’s precisely the problem; social media makes things a lot bigger and more important than they need to be. And it also makes people a lot more famous and richer than they need to be.
In July, Hookit reported that McGregor added 12.7 million followers in the previous 12 months, while Mayweather added 3.4 million. They also noted that McGregor’s social media posts generated 419 million interactions, three times what Mayweather generated, and that McGregor’s social media accounts are now worth tens of millions of dollars.
It’s clear that we all got played, but we did it to ourselves. Boxing will never be the same again. Social media and apps like Periscope are changing the way combat sports are promoted and broadcasted. If you’re a fighter and don’t know how to use social media to build your own following or marketable brand, the chances you get a shot at a big marquee fight are slim to none. And if promoters don’t pay more attention to regulating illegitimate live feeds online, by the time the next fight of this magnitude comes along the whole pay-per-view broadcasting model may disrupt that revenue stream.
Social media and streaming is the new way of doing things and just like McGregor, we can fight it for a little bit, but in the end, we all know what’s going to happen.