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I am famously not a fan of the sports business. I think everyone should play sports. But being a sports “fan” is a lazy thing that reeks of pointless nationalism.
My weakness, though, has always been combat sports. In particular, MMA (mixed martial arts) fascinates me no end, for the technique, the discipline, the narrative, and for reasons that I believe are downright existential. The martial arts, to me, have always been an activity ripe with self-knowledge and, dare I say it, a degree of spiritual truth. All other sports are metaphors for combat — “I’m gonna beat your ass!”– whereas combat is, in and of itself, a primary human condition.
Tomorrow we will see what is being billed as the biggest sporting event ever: a boxing match between the greatest living defensive boxer, Floyd Mayweather, and MMA superstar, Conor McGregor. I’m excited for it. And I want to explain why.
First, boxing is a sport, whereas MMA is the closest thing we have in the sporting world to an actual fight. So this will be more of a “game” or a “match” than an actual fight. Let’s get that out of the way.
Floyd Mayweather has 49 victories and no losses. He is that good. Conor McGregor has never had a professional boxing match in his life. In fact, there’s no record of him having had a sanctioned amateur boxing match, either. In every rational analysis Mayweather wins this contest with ease.
But what fascinates me is the paradigm-changing abilities of magical Conor McGregor. This is a young man whose career has been defined by defying expectations and projecting pure, undistilled confidence. And there is something refreshing and honest about those qualities, as if he perceives a universal truth that the rest of us are too unfocused to see.
I’ve trained in boxing, karate, kickboxing, judo, jiujitsu, and a host of other martial arts. I’ve even competed a little. But I am not qualified to make predictions about the actual techniques that either man will apply tomorrow night. So I will not even attempt to do so.
That’s not what this is about for me. This contest is to determine whether iconoclasm comes packaged in a suit of preternatural confidence, and whether this Irishman is a prophet of iconoclasm. Much like how Einstein overturned the world of Newton, maybe McGregor overturns the world of orthodox boxing.
Does that sound too overwrought? Maybe it is. But this is what it comes down to. Are there hidden truths in the world, lying in plain sight? I believe that there are. Einstein did not perform any experiments; he just saw the world differently, and turned out to be right. Such seers come along rarely, and we are well advised to pay attention when they do.
Conor McGregor sees the world of movement differently. He feels that most people fall into unconscious patterns of thought and movement. When we interact with others, we fall into unconscious patterns of partnership, maybe walking in sync or taking turns speaking. The same thing occurs in the world of combat movement, McGregor theorizes.
And I think he might be right. I think that Conor McGregor sees a staidness in the centuries-old practice of boxing. Or at least I think that he thinks he does. And if he does, then we are on the verge of witnessing a revolution of perceived human movement tomorrow night.
Every logical thought says McGregor gets beaten quickly and decisively. Maybe it’s my romantic desire to see empires fall, orthodoxies crumble, and new truths revealed. But I believe that Conor McGregor beats Mayweather, maybe even knocks him out.
And a new paradigm shall emerge.
Epilogue: watch this video from the final press conference before the match. After weeks of vile trash talk, Conor bows to Mayweather and says “Good luck.” Floyd responds, “And good luck to you, too.” Ahh, in the end, the spirit of the martial arts prevails.