Conor McGregor lands a left to the face of Nate Diaz during their welterweight rematch at UFC 202. (Steve Marcus / Getty Images)
Conor McGregor’s ability to obtain a boxing license from the California State Athletic Commission this week may tweak his UFC bosses’ noses and generate headlines.
But it’s not going to get Floyd Mayweather Jr. into the ring.
At a Thursday boxing news conference in Los Angeles, two of the men who helped propel the unbeaten retired champion’s career — Showtime Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza and newly created Ringstar Sports promoter Richard Schaefer — agreed that Mayweather won’t fight in California due to prohibitive income taxes that don’t apply in Nevada.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t interested opponents for McGregor.
Unbeaten former two-division champion Mikey Garcia, who was at the news conference alongside his Jan. 28 opponent at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, lightweight world champion Dejan Zlaticanin, said he’d be happy to meet the colorful Irishman who last month became the first man in UFC history to simultaneously wear two championship belts (featherweight and lightweight).
The UFC followed that on Saturday night by announcing that it was removing McGregor’s featherweight belt since he hadn’t fought in the division since December 2015, giving it back to Brazilian Jose Aldo, whose 10-year unbeaten run was snapped by a McGregor knockout punch in 13 seconds.
According to an official close to the situation who was unauthorized to discuss the situation publicly, McGregor last year agreed to surrender the featherweight belt if he had defeated then-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. When dos Anjos was injured, and McGregor found himself losing to and later defeating Nate Diaz at welterweight, he was given the Nov. 12 chance to win the second belt against Eddie Alvarez.
In an impressive display of striking, McGregor knocked down Alvarez five times en route to a second-round knockout triumph before a record fighting crowd at Madison Square Garden.
McGregor asked at his post-fight news conference for more pay, including a share of the UFC that celebrities such as Conan O’Brien and Tom Brady have, and he asked UFC leaders to meet with him to discuss such an option.
As of this week, no such conference had happened, and then came word that the boxing license had been secured.
“I think [McGregor] getting his boxing license was sticking the finger to the UFC for stripping him of the title,” said Carl Frampton, the featherweight boxing champion from Northern Ireland who’ll fight Los Angeles’ Leo Santa Cruz in the Jan. 28 main event, a rematch of their fight-of-the-year contender from July.
While McGregor is under contract with the UFC for more mixed martial arts bouts, it would be interesting to see what would happen if a legitimate boxing offer emerged.
There are rules against restraint of trade, and so what would a court or arbiter decide if he requested a different type of fight with the kind of purse expected for a fighter who has generated four of the 10 bestselling UFC pay-per-views in history?
Garcia, who resides in Riverside, remains skeptical of the McGregor boxing talk.
“His abilities are not at the world championship levels in boxing,” Garcia said. “He has good boxing skills for MMA … he’s a good striker … but his boxing abilities would not allow him to compete against world champion boxers. His level of boxing — I don’t see it being that much better than an amateur fighter.
“He makes a lot of mistakes he can get away with in MMA, but not boxing, and if he really wants to fight in California … . Floyd won’t fight him in California, but I’m from ‘Cali,’ so if he’s serious about trying something, let’s do it. I doubt that he’s serious about doing it.
“He might be doing it to stir up some things, get some media, but that’s about it.”