Mayweather, 40, the undefeated and now-unretired boxing legend, and McGregor, 29, the current UFC lightweight champion, are two of the most polarizing figures in sports. Their dominance, combined with their confidence, personalities and egos, have made for some of the hottest pay-per-view events of the last decade. Their match is expected to draw a record audience of 50 million people—but some argue that the real fight has already happened outside of the ring.
The two fighters pulled no punches during their four-day multinational press tour to promote the fight, which was marred by personal insults and accusations of racism. Setting aside the initial debate around why the fight is even happening (cha-ching!), let’s take a look at what both fighters said during their controversial whirlwind tour.
1. “Dance For Me, Boy”
During the first stop of their press tour in Los Angeles on July 11, McGregor yelled “dance for me, boy” as Mayweather threw shadow punches in front of the crowd. The comment was criticized for evoking insults used toward African-Americans during the Jim Crow era, though many pointed out that McGregor has used “boy” as an insult many times, regardless of his opponent’s race.
Initially, Mayweather brushed off McGregor’s comments.
“A lot of people say that Conor McGregor is racist, but I’m not worried about that,” Mayweather told TMZ. “It is what it is. He’s entitled to feel how he wants to feel. I just want to stay in my zone and stay focused.”
That was until McGregor escalated the situation during a tour stop in Brooklyn.
2. “I’m Half-black From the Belly Button Down”
McGregor addressed the issue of race in front of the Brooklyn crowd on July 13 on the third day of the press tour.
“A lot of media are saying I’m against black people. That’s absolutely [expletive] ridiculous,” McGregor said. “Do they not know I’m half-black? Yeah. I’m half-black from the belly button down!”
Then, while gyrating his torso, McGregor added, “Just to show them that’s squashed, here’s a little present for my black, beautiful female fans!”
3. Jimmy Kimmel Live
Jimmy Kimmel’s sidekick, Guillermo, managed to get a backstage interview with McGregor for Jimmy Kimmel Live. McGregor was asked what was supposed to be a fun question: Who would win in a fight, him or Rocky III?
“I’m trying to remember which one was Rocky III,” McGregor responded. “Was that the one in the celebrity gym? I can’t remember if that’s the one with the dancing monkeys or not.”
Many people interpreted McGregor’s comment as being directed toward black people, since Rocky trains in a gym full of all-black boxers in the film. In an interview with MMA Fighting, McGregor explained he was instead referring to Rocky’s specialized gym that was “built like a circus.”
Despite his clarification, Mayweather criticized McGregor and appeared to take his comments personally.
“I just didn’t like when he called us monkeys,” Mayweather told MMA Fighting. “I think that was totally disrespectful… He called us monkeys. I didn’t like it. It didn’t push a button to make me jump out of my character and go crazy, but I didn’t like it.”
Mayweather added that he felt he had to defeat McGregor for “all the blacks around the world.”
For what it’s worth, Mayweather himself has been accused of racism leading up to many of his fights.
4. Mayweather’s Domestic Violence
On August 12, McGregor spoke with MMA Fighting to give his response to Mayweather’s criticism.
“He said I labeled him a monkey,” McGregor said. “I never once in my life labeled him or any African-American a monkey and it [expletive] annoys me that he’s even bringing it this type of stuff up. If I was to label him after any animal it would the rat or the weasel. Because that’s a rat and a weasel move, trying to manipulate someone’s words and trying to create something that’s not even there.”
McGregor then brought up Mayweather’s own violent past.
“I mean he’s a man that beats his wife in front of his kid. He is the dirt of the dirt,” he said.
According to Deadspin, Mayweather has had at least seven assaults against five women where he was either arrested or given a citation. Mayweather’s then-10-year-old son once wrote a statement to police that said he saw his father hit his mother on multiple occasions.
5. Sexism and Homophobia
When it was Mayweather’s turn to speak during their last press conference in London on July 14, Mayweather called McGregor a gay slur and a derogatory name referring to the female anatomy. Throughout the tour, Mayweather and McGregor were criticized for using bigotry to sell their fight.
Mayweather is by far the most profitable boxer of the modern era and McGregor is the biggest pay-per-view star in UFC, having headlined four of the highest-selling events in the organization’s history. If this is Mayweather’s last fight (as he says it is), he would have all but solidified his place as the greatest boxer of his generation. If McGregor wins, he would prove he is the best all-around fighter in combat sports today.
Whether they’ll live up to the hype after their embarrassing display on the tour, well, we won’t have to wait long to find out. The fight is expected to be the most lucrative in history, and both men are expected to earn at least $100 million, with a purse of $390 million.
President Donald Trump has an open invitation to the fight, according to Mayweather’s business advisor Leonard Ellerbe. Trump has not made any public comments about the fight and whether he’ll attend, but other celebrities are expected to make appearances, such as Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
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