LAS VEGAS — Before Conor McGregor had even heard of mixed martial arts, he wanted to be a boxer. He first stepped into Crumlin Boxing Club nearly 20 years ago in muddy football boots and started punching a heavy bag.
McGregor returned constantly for the next seven years, determined to become tough enough to dissuade bullies in his Dublin neighborhood. He competed in amateur boxing matches against opponents of all sizes and shapes over the years, developing tenacity and power.
“There were no weight rules, no limitations on who you could fight,” McGregor recalled Wednesday. “We would just have an opponent assigned to us. That was always the joke: Everybody at the Crumlin Boxing Club had to fight heavyweights, no matter what size you are. But it was a good lesson. You must be prepared for any eventuality. You must be ready to fight. That’s how I was brought into this game.”
McGregor is on top of the fight game this week before his Saturday showdown with Floyd Mayweather (49-0), the most accomplished boxer of his generation. McGregor, a former plumber who has never had a professional boxing match, will make roughly $100 million for stepping into the ring for the first time in the spectacle of the summer.
And though McGregor moved into MMA training in his teens and eventually rose to win two UFC belts, he is no boxing neophyte. While he has other strengths, McGregor’s MMA career has been built in large part on his boxing-bred punching power, which is considered exceptional by his sport’s standards.
Oh, and he also doesn’t lack confidence, which is no small thing when facing odds as daunting as McGregor’s chances against Mayweather.
“No fighter can train for what I bring into the ring or into the octagon,” McGregor said. “I am too skilled. I am too diverse. My movement is too much for them. All of these men will fall.”
But for McGregor to make Mayweather fall, he’ll either need to land an astonishing home-run punch, or he’ll have to show more creativity and sustained boxing skill than MMA usually demands.