Sports

Exploring the planet on which Floyd Mayweather will fight Conor McGregor

It's hard to look past money's influence on the creation of Saturday's event.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor face off in front of the &quotMoney Belt" at the MGM Grand's KA Theatre during the final news conference ahead of Saturday's superfight.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images / Getty Images

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor face off in front of the "Money Belt" at the MGM Grand's KA Theatre during the final news conference ahead of Saturday's superfight.

My first time in Las Vegas is like a surreal exploration through an alien landscape. Which is apt, as I’m here covering a surreal contest straight out of some alternate universe which one thought impossible when the far-fetched, hopeful whispers of it first emerged.

“This is a fight made by the fans for the fans,” said the CEO of Mayweather Promotions, Leonard Ellerbe, on Wednesday at the final news conference before Saturday’s main event at T-Mobile Arena.

I can’t say I fully agree with Mr. Ellerbe. Like many fans, general spectators, and critics of the event, I believe this is all about money.

The introduction of a customized “Money Belt” before the fighters’ last words to the media backs up this viewpoint. This overly decadent, jewel-encrusted creation will be the eventual victor’s grotesque trophy and it’s probably worth more than you or I will make in a lifetime. They’re not calling it “The Money Fight” for nothing.

Coming across Vegas’ large, sun-scorched homeless community reminded me how conflicted I am by this bout. On one hand, it’s a mouth-watering prospect for any fan. On the other, it’s a stark confirmation of the world’s ever-widening wealth divide.

Yet in contrast, the news conference was a strange, subdued affair. A far cry from last month's four-city promotional tour laced in profanity, hyperbole, and manufactured disdain.

At times, the atmosphere inside the MGM Grand’s KÀ Theatre felt more library than superfight buildup. The calm before the storm perhaps? Conor McGregor was in a touchy yet focused head space. The Irishman told off some loudmouths in the crowd before reiterating his plan to knock out Floyd Mayweather in two rounds. Mayweather was in an unusually grateful and reflective mood, thanking those who helped him become the success he is. For a brief moment, he showed real emotion before slyly reverting back to his other major talent: selling fights. The Michigan-born pugilist again publicly doubted his own chances for Saturday in a not-so-subtle attempt to make believers out of those who are convinced this fight will be a dud.
“What better city to take a chance than Las Vegas,” he said. “This city was built on gambling and I’m taking a gamble.”

Call me cynical but in this landscape it’s hard to be anything but. I struggle to believe Mayweather has ever doubted his fists in his life but I can bet that quote just sold him an awful lot more pay-per-views.

The final press conference can be found in full here.

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