Can McGregor fight Mayweather without the UFC?

The Irish fighter could have the last laugh if this fight happens...

BY Joseph Conroy 16:54 Monday 30 January 2017, 16:54 30 Jan 2017

Image: ©INPHO/Tom Hogan

After Conor McGregor's performance at his black tie Manchester Q&A (which was also streamed around the world at a pay per view price of £3.99 or €4.68), the fighting world is a-buzz with talk of a possible showdown between the Irish fighter and the 49-0 boxing champ Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Staging the bout would be an extremely complicated commercial venture - but it's also one of the only fights that could rival the revenue brought in by the Mayweather's clash with Manny Pacquiao which generated over 4.6 million PPV buys in the US and a further 700,000 in the UK.

Given the amount of money that this super-fight could bring in, it is in a lot of people's interest to make it happen - and if it is to become a reality there will be a lot of parties looking for their slice of the pie.

Seats at the table

Among them will be the UFC; the combat federation has never ventured into the boxing world but its president Dana White claims to be the only person to put a real offer on the table.

He's publicly stated that the UFC would promote the fight, offering both fighters $25m (€23.4m) and a cut of the PPV revenue to square off.

This was laughed off by Mayweather, who says he isn't coming out of retirement for less than $100m (€94m) - and that he expects to earn a multiple of McGregor's purse.

Conor McGregor misses a press conference and is pulled from UFC 200

McGregor Promotions

Since he became a bona fide global superstar, McGregor has publicly attacked the UFC on a number of fronts - a disagreement between him and the organisation led to him being pulled from the showcase UFC 200 card in July of last year.

On Saturday night he announced the formation of 'McGregor Promotions,' speaking at the Q&A after posting an Instagram picture including a caption with some choice words for the UFC.

Discussing the complications of putting a Mayweather v McGregor card together he said: “With the Ali Act I believe we could [fight without the UFC]. I believe I can make this fight without the UFC, but I think it’s smoother if we’re all involved. Everyone’s got to know their place.

"There’s Mayweather Promotions, there’s the UFC and now there’s the newly formed McGregor Promotions. And we’re all in the mix," suggesting that he is hoping to wrangle a bigger slice of the pile if and when he makes his pro boxing debut - with the backing of the UFC.

The 'Ali Act' restricts the power federations can have over individual boxers.

It's unclear if McGregor's spat with the UFC is genuine or part of a bigger power-play, his leverage has increased since the company was sold for $4.2bn last year. 

The new owners, WME-IMG, have massive loans to pay off after purchasing the company and with Ronda Rousey suffering her second stoppage in a row, McGregor is the only superstar with crossover appeal left to deliver the monster PPV pay-days that the promotion needs.

Cutting free

Although UFC contracts are 'notoriously' air tight, Conor's move into a new discipline could offer some leeway to the Crumlin native.

The promotion's legal papers state that the UFC has "the exclusive right to promote all of Fighter's bouts and Fighter shall not participate in or render his services as a professional fighter or in any other capacity to any other mixed martial art, martial art, boxing, professional wrestling, or any other fighting competition or exhibition, except as otherwise expressly permitted by this Agreement," which doesn't look promising if he's looking to cut them off.

Dana White in Dublin

"If they let people fight in jiu-jitsu tournaments, they can let me box. Right now there’s something humongous that needs to be done & it doesn’t really involve them, even though they think it does," the Irish fighter said on Saturday.

Speaking on the same night, a steely voiced Dana White said an attempt to organise the fight without the UFC would provoke an "epic fall" for the Irish athlete.

When asked if he thought that the fighter would go that way, he said, "I don’t know. It’s not up to me."

Last summer, MMA site Bloody Elbow asked a number of combat sport legal specialists if this fight can happen without the organisation. They outlined a road map for how it could happen:

1. Conor would need to get a boxing licence (which he has done in California).

2. Mayweather and McGregor book a fight without the UFC being involved (this is likely to trigger legal action from the UFC in Navada, claiming that their contract has been breached)

3. McGregor counters this by enacting the 'Ali Act' - saying the UFC's contract is restricting him from operating as a licensed boxer after being granted permission by the state of California.

The legal analysis adds that if tested, the UFC's claim to have the right to exclusively promote its athletes boxing events could be against the 'Ali Act' and be overruled by Federal Law and leave McGregor Promotions and Mayweather Promotions free to stage the super-bout.

Fallout

This could, of course, mean a lot of bridge burning on the part of the Irish fighter - but it would also mean a massive payday for the Dublin fighter who was constantly stated throughout his career that the objective of prize fighting is to get in, make money, and get out.

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