The Only Decent UFC Matchup for Floyd Mayweather is CM Punk, And It Stinks
It will never be Conor McGregor because Mayweather would die.
Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Say this for the ostensibly-retired Floyd Mayweather: he knows how to keep himself in the spotlight. Though the undefeated pugilist re-retired after his August defeat of UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, it seems like we haven’t gone a week without a Mayweather-related headline since.
The latest tidal wave of Mayweather buzz has gushed forth from a recent Instagram live session, during which the legendary boxer unleashed an-ego crazed, ultra-masturbatory rant, referring to himself as the “greatest athlete ever,” and, more importantly, suggesting he was in the process of hashing out a deal with the UFC.
“I can come right back,” Mayweather said. “If I want to, I can come right back to the UFC. I can go fight in the Octagon. I can do a three or four-fight deal in the Octagon and make a billion dollars. Remember, I’m Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather, and you motherfuckers love me, and I love you motherfuckers.”
When Floyd Mayweather says something, it must always be taken with a grain of salt. The man is a used-car salesman with a social media following 41.3 million people strong. And yet shortly after Mayweather made these claims, UFC commentator Joe Rogan dumped gas on the tire fire, announcing that these Mayweather-UFC negotiations were the real deal.
“This is apparently one thing I can tell you,” Rogan said on his podcast. “Dana told me that Floyd wants to make a deal in the UFC. Like legitimately. So I texted him ‘is Floyd really talking about fighting MMA?’ He goes ‘yeah, he’s f**king crazy, I told him he’d get killed but he’s still talking about doing it.’”
Like Mayweather’s, Rogan’s statements must always be taken with a degree of skepticism. Somewhere over the course of his 20-year career as the UFC’s color commentator, he has lost his ability to switch out of hype-man mode. This is the man who referred to Ronda Rousey as a “once in human history” athlete, and cried when he interviewed her in his studio. This is a man who has referred to a seemingly endless list of fighters as the undeniable, irrefutable, no-bones-about-it Greatest of All Time—a title that can only be really owned by one fighter. The intention here is not to disparage Rogan’s character, but he is the UFC’s carnival barker, and so we must take what he says lightly.
Yet shortly after Rogan made his comments, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto confirmed with UFC President Dana White himself that Mayweather has indeed been in negotiations with the UFC.
“We’re talking to Floyd about doing a UFC deal,” White told ESPN. “It’s real. He was talking about [boxing] Conor McGregor. Was that real? Have you heard Floyd talk about many things that aren’t real? He usually tips his hand when he’s in the media and then that shit ends up happening.”
“We’re interested in doing something with Floyd. Everything is a realistic possibility. Mayweather vs. McGregor fucking happened. Anything is possible.”
White, like Mayweather and Rogan, is infamous for exaggerating, and even sometimes lying. But that’s three people who have claimed there are currently negotiations underway between Mayweather and the UFC. This means that there is a possibility, however slim, that Mayweather cashes that billion-dollar check, straps on some four-ounce MMA gloves, and steps into the Octagon next year.
While Mayweather is, without any exaggeration, one of the greatest boxers ever, the outcome of pretty much any MMA fight he could be involved in would be hilariously predictable. He would either have his head kicked into the stratosphere, where it would join a mess of dead satellites and space junk and orbit the earth forever, or he would be taken down and submitted. The boxer has already been called out by UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, UFC featherweight Cub Swanson, and a host of others, but the reality is that any goddamn one of them would execute him. That includes Conor McGregor, who is far and away the most likely opponent for Mayweather, should this weird fever dream turn into reality.
And there’s the rub. In order for the UFC to sell us a Floyd Mayweather match as anything other than the humiliating, public execution of a boxing legend, it’ll have to find him an opponent who is similarly inexperienced in MMA.
Of course, Mayweather won’t fight just anybody. While pitting him against a Denny’s manager with a BJJ blue belt might make for a competitive MMA fight, it’d never happen, as the business-savvy boxer will require an opponent with a name, with mainstream appeal. Yes, to find Mayweather a suitable opponent, the UFC will have to find somebody who is both inexperienced, and famous.
Sound familiar? That’s because this is the exact same dilemma the promotion faced when it signed pro wrestler CM Punk back in 2014.
At the time of his signing, Punk had about as much martial arts experience as Dana White has hair on his head. Unfortunately, he also had a massive pro wrestling fan base, which made his interest in an MMA career too lucrative for the UFC to ignore. And so the promotion set out to find an opponent that just maybe, just possibly might not kill him. It made a major error when it landed on Mickey Gall, a bright young prospect with years of combat sports experience, who promptly took Punk down, brutalized him with ground and pound, then choked him out.
Today, the UFC brass still don’t really know what to do with CM Punk. Though Punk and his coach Duke Roufus have both repeatedly expressed interest in his taking another fight in the Octagon, the promotion seems to be at a loss when it comes to finding him a suitable dance partner. The problem is there isn’t really anybody on the roster that the fans will believe he can beat…
But good god, there might be soon.
Just when all hope of finding CM Punk a big-name, low-ability opponent seemed lost, Floyd Mayweather injects himself into the conversation. The hilarious truth is that, in many ways, he’d be the perfect opponent for the former pro wrestler in an MMA bout. While Mayweather would stand a very good chance of knocking Punk senseless with his hands, Punk also has a major leg up on him in the grappling department, having recently earned his blue belt in BJJ—truly nothing to smirk at. He might just tap the boxer out. The odds for this possible fight would be legitimately interesting to see, even if the fight wouldn’t be.
Then again, if the UFC did make this fight—promotional wet-dream though it may be—it would hemorrhage whatever is left of its dwindling integrity. Though a Floyd Mayweather vs. CM Punk fight would probably sell a million pay-per-views, it would also generate a million laughs, as the promotion completes its long-awaited evolution from “human cockfighting” to legitimate sporting attraction to circus.
Luckily, it will never happen. That’s not because the UFC wouldn’t book it. The reason it will never happen is because Floyd Mayweather has never fought heavier than about 154 pounds, while CM Punk struggled to cut down to the welterweight division’s 171-pound limit in his UFC debut.
Yes, it’s safe to say that the only thing that is truly sparing us from a 2018 MMA fight between the boxer Floyd Mayweather and the pro wrestler CM Punk is a few pounds.