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14th Jul 2017

There’s no doubt Floyd Mayweather has got under Conor McGregor’s thin skin

Who is the heel in this soap opera?

Mikey Stafford

If the plotline of these press conferences follows through into the ring on 26 August, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor will slap each other with chequebooks for 12 rounds.

Or perhaps try to down their opponent with a nasty paper cut from a bank statement, jab the corner of a credit card in the other’s eye or, if feeling vulgar, simply bonk their enemy over the head with a sock full of silver dollars.

If the issue of race has unsurprisingly found its way into the headlines, it is nothing new with Conor McGregor. He has sailed close to the wind on a number of occasions when speaking about Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo and now Floyd Mayweather.

A gifted mixed martial artist, McGregor has burst out of the chains of the UFC to become a cultural icon (like it or not) on the back of his skills as an orator. Give the Dubliner a microphone and an audience and he comes alive. My wife, who considered him “a scumbag”, was won over by the Los Angeles and Toronto legs of his world tour – giving out Thursday morning when I started watching the second one without her.

“He is really funny,” her honest explanation for a U-Turn on “The Notorious”.

Not sure what she will make of the Brooklyn encore.

Fair enough, he is funny. Not exactly politically correct, with repartée that would not pass muster at the Trinity Philosophical Society – but the gag about Floyd Mayweather’s schoolbag and his not being able to read was chucklesome and the call and response chant of “Fuck the Mayweathers” was PT Barnum stuff.

He knows how to whip up a crowd and, when a crowd is with him, his spiel is irresistible.

However, it is when he is less than comfortable that he tends to over-extend himself and perhaps go beyond whatever far flung barriers of taste are circling this whistlestop world tour.

Nate Diaz disputing how negotiations for UFC 196 transpired and what weight he agreed to fight at led to McGregor’s “Cholo Gangster” remark.

Booed by a hostile Rio de Janeiro crowd, the Crumlin man came out with the line about invading Aldo’s Favela on horseback.

Whether this constitutes racism or simply “bad banter” is a matter for debate, but it does hint at a man who can be rattled and Floyd Mayweather has rattled Conor McGregor this week.

The root of his discomfort is the root of all evil – filthy lucre. Mayweather’s favourite topic of conversation, his moniker and, it would seem, his reason for being.

All of Mayweather’s verbal jabs – apart from repeatedly calling McGregor a quitter for tapping out against Diaz – revolve around money. Daring McGregor to bet his fight cheque on the outcome of their fight, constantly reminding the 29-year-old he “only” earned ¢3million for his last fight, throwing dollar bills in the air and asking McGregor to perform a stripper dance.

The list of financial epithets is long and depressing but it has worked.

It works because, for the most part, McGregor has appropriated Mayweather’s schtick for his own career. Posing in front of a fleet of luxury cars? Floyd did that. Bragging pre-fight about how much more money you are earning than your opponent? Floyd did that. Setting up a promotion company to get a bigger slice of the combat fighting pie? Floyd did that.

So, when Mayweather brags about a fortune estimated at $340m, he does so from a position of strength. McGregor wants to “get in, get rich, get out” but Mayweather has already done that and is now returning for another colossal payday, which will see him earn far more than his opponent.

It is his name above the door, his friends Showtime allowing the UFC to ride on their coattails and McGregor’s microphone getting cut after spending an uncomfortable 10 minutes waiting on stage for Mayweather in the Staples Centre.

Despite his tour de force in Toronto, there was one line from Mayweather that appears to have struck a nerve with McGregor.

“Dana White, you and me got money. We know who got the money. We don’t gotta wear suits. The real men who have the money don’t gotta wear suits,” said the 49-0 boxer to the UFC president.

Despite swanning around LA topless earlier on Tuesday, McGregor had donned a trademark sharp suit for the first press conference, and the second. He mocked Mayweather for dressing like a child in a tracksuit, but was he missing the point that the 40-year-old egotist was wearing his own clothesline. Free advertising – a businessman after all.

Following this comment about McGregor’s clobber, it was perhaps unsurprising to see him arrive at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn wearing a gaudy pair of pants, no shirt and a Pat Butcheresque fur coat.

To quote the great Dolly Parton: “It costs a lot of money to look this cheap.”

It may seem inconsequential after McGregor’s dry-humping of the air and “black from the belly button down” comment, but McGregor’s attire hints at a man who knows he cannot win.

In or out of the ring.