Exhibition matches in combat sports aren’t a rarity, but when UFC’s “Notorious”  Conor McGregor merged into boxing by taking on Floyd Mayweather, it became more than just an exhibition match. The combined fans’ interests generated a whooping 4.3 million pay-per-view buys, which was the second highest generated income in boxing history.  

In hopes to produce similar numbers, which translates to millions in revenue, Mayweather’s long-time rival Manny “Pac-Man” Pacquiao released a statement confirming he plans to be McGregor’s second boxing opponent and donate his earnings to help those impacted by Covid-19. 

Picture: Los Angeles Times// Pacquiao’s aide Jayke Joson released a statement confirming the senator will fight Conor McGregor next.

“For the sake of all Filipino Covid-19 victims, Senator Manny Pacquiao will be fighting UFC superstar Connor McGregor next year. A huge portion of his earnings will proceed to those who are affected nationwide by the pandemic.”

UFC’s Conor McGregor took to Twitter to confirm he’d be facing Manny Pacquiao in a boxing match.

As expected,  the event intrigues loyal MMA fans who believe the Irishman can pull off an upset over the eight-division world champion. However, hardcore boxing fans curl their lips in reaction to the news, with some claiming Pacquiao continues to live in Mayweather’s shadow by taking on the same opponent for an exhibition. 

By stepping into the boxing ring with McGregor, boxing enthusiasts will undoubtedly compare Pacquiao’s performance with Mayweather’s. There will be a high expectation for him to put on a much more entertaining performance, given his usual explosiveness in the ring.

With the inability to host fans in most sports amidst this global pandemic, perhaps an exhibition match with such a renowned MMA seemed like the best option for the Filipino boxing legend, who looks to remain active until a negotiation with a true champion in his division develops. For McGregor, however, fans speculate this might be a quick cash-grab after announcing his retirement from the UFC via Twitter this past June.

Since McGregor has cried retirement multiple times in the past, other UFC fans simply see it as no more than a publicity stunt to gain more attention once he makes a “comeback” to face current champions in the octagon. However, McGregor has been vocal about his lack of passion for MMA in recent interviews, claiming he has lost interest and drive he once possessed. 

“The game just does not excite me, and that’s that,” McGregor told ESPN. “All this waiting around. There’s nothing happening. I’m going through opponent options, and there’s nothing really there at the minute. There’s nothing that’s exciting me.”

On Sept. 26, McGregor also took to Instagram to post a picture of his 2017 Mayweather fight with a lengthy caption expressing his frustration with the inability to get an opponent in the octagon and claiming he’s ready to take on a new challenge with restricted rules inside the boxing ring. 

“The very first shot of the fight. Right on the button through the guard. I didn’t even put anything into that shot. Just placed it. It was hard for me not to dwell on the full 12 rounds that were potentially ahead of me and hold back my shots early. Still tho right on the absolute button. The first punch thrown. Remember the experts saying I wouldn’t land even 1 lol. I landed more than them all. The picture above is the very first punch of the fight thrown, and landed, and inside the very first second of the fight. Bums all of them “experts.” Listen to none of them! Really I should have just sat right thru that shot and took his head off and fuck the distance. If it didn’t work out just give him a good boot into the neck and get DQ’d and fined and who’d give a fuck. I’m upset I fully followed the rules for that fight to be honest. Floyd deserved a volley at the least. A shoulder even, break the face. Manny not so much tho I don’t think, but I will see how the build up goes and wait to hear what bitter old Freddie Roach has to say and then make a decision. My Whiskeys at half a b and climbing I could take a fine. I’d rather fight MMA anyway not sure why I’ve been held back like this, it’s borderline criminal at this stage. The biggest number generator in the game asking for four fights since February this year and getting left on seen. It’s pretty fucked up when I keep thinking of it. I’ve been right here this whole time. Bob Chapek, do you copy! I repeat, Bob Chapek – Do You Copy! Anyways boxing it is for now and I’m up for this! I hope no bottling takes place here. I’m already agreeing to these limited rules and holding back my full array of weapons. Let’s get it going guys. Much love, the champ champ.”

McGregor seems to have a softer spot for Pacquiao, knowing an insult-war-type of press conference would not arise with the current Philippines senator. For the most part, Boxing fans share a similar sentiment since Pacquiao’s constant display of humility softens the criticism often associated with exhibition matches or outsiders trying to pop into boxing for a quick buck. 

While MMA fans have repeatedly proven to be more loyal and less critical of their favorite combat athletes, boxing fans constantly gatekeep the sport and frown upon exhibition matches that cross over other sports. When famous Youtube Vloggers Jake and Logan Paul faced other Youtube stars, AnesonGib and KSI, on the streaming app DAZN, boxing fans went as far as to boycott the entire card regardless of it featuring actual professional boxing matches as well. 

In their argument, hardcore boxing fans claim it is incredibly dishonorable for “random” people who haven’t dedicated their lives to the craft to come into the spotlight and make millions on a primetime spot, while more-deserving boxers sit on the sidelines underpaid despite the fact that they have been sacrificing their lives for boxing.

Being the only boxer to conquer eight divisions and capturing a major world title by defeating a previously unbeaten, longest-reigning welterweight champion at 40 years old, Pacquiao has paid his dues and fans are less critical of his decisions. Given the devoted fan base both fighters possess, the card guarantees to make numbers regardless of where it takes place. 

Most boxing fans will tune in because they’re confident Pacquiao will use his hand-speed and experience to put McGregor away in a more devastating fashion than Mayweather did and in fewer rounds. On the other hand, UFC fans hold a small hope their favorite troublemaker can make “Pac-Man” plank on the ring, similar to his brutal knockout loss in 2012. 

As we await an official fight date, both sides of combat sports’ reactions continue to surface both in support and disapproval of the crossover match. One thing is for sure, though. Whether you find it entertaining and harmless or refer to it as a cash-grabbing circus, you will definitely be watching.

Written ByLiliana Ulloa

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