When it was announced that boxing superstar and multi-millionaire Floyd “Money” Mayweather would be coming out of a two year retirement and squaring off against MMA poster boy and UFC kingpin “The Notorius” Conor McGregor, the combat sports world went into a mini meltdown. Boxing against MMA, Mayweather – the master of the sweet science of Queensbury rules in boxing versus the new kid on the block, the pretender to the throne in McGregor. The super fight has split opinion across the two sports in a big way. Boxing purists see it as nothing more than a circus, a platform for two highly successful, loud mouthed, often outspoken sportsmen to get richer. MMA fans and experts are more positive about the spectacle; perhaps seeing it as the perfect opportunity (should McGregor win) to pour scorn on the sport of boxing, a sport that frequently looks down it’s nose at the new global phenomenon that is mixed martial arts.
So what could this mega fight possibly have to do with graphic design?
Well, after watching the highly entertaining, testosterone fuelled worldwide “presser” tour, it became alarmingly obvious that this fight not only pits two great fighters against one another, but also two huge brands will come face to face and collide when the first bell sounds. The Floyd Mayweather brand is vast and spans not only the boxer’s own personal image and persona but also a fight promotion label and a massive entourage that leach off the Mayweather name. The Money Team or TMT for short, represents everything about street Afro-American culture in the modern day.
In terms of image, look and style, it’s all about the snap back baller hats, baggy sports tops, excessively expensive trainers or “sneakers” as Floyd and his merry gang would refer to them. Over the top “bling”, gold chains, rings, fake teeth, diamond earrings and anything else that is made from gold and could be attached to ones body as a show sign of ones riches and success – thus representing a sense of heightened status amongst peers. The bigger the bling, the bigger the ego. And there is no bigger ego than Floyd Mayweather.
However, it must be said the ego is there for a good reason. Mayweather is good. Very very good in fact. Unbeaten in 49 fights as a professional. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest boxers of all time, not only undefeated as a professional but a five-division world champion, Mayweather has won fifteen world titles and the lineal championship in four different weight classes. As an amateur he won a bronze medal in the featherweight division at the 1996 Olympics, three U.S. Golden Gloves titles and the U.S. national title at featherweight.
Boxing has been a part of Mayweather’s life since his childhood and he never seriously considered any other profession. “I think my grandmother saw my potential first,” Mayweather said. “When I was young, I told her ‘I think I should get a job.’ She said, ‘No, just keep boxing’. When I was about eight or nine, I lived in New Jersey with my mother and we were seven deep in one bedroom and sometimes we didn’t have electricity. When people see what I have now, they have no idea of where I came from and how I didn’t have anything growing up.”
As brash, loud and as obnoxious as Mayweather can be and what he represents in terms of greed, status and glamorous over indulgence, he has worked extremely hard to get to where he is. It is probably safe to say that he’s worked harder than every other boxer in his generation and an offshoot of his graft, has been the development of the massive TMT brand.
Conor McGregor is a worldwide phenomenon. Part of the fastest growing sport on the planet. He too represents the culture of a generation. The Irish brawler could well be the poster boy for the fit-is-fun generation that sprawl Instagram with imagery of mirror poses, physique progress selfies and healthy plates of food. He is athletic, fast, strong, and he has razor sharp wit. In the octagon he is brave, willing to fight anyone and never takes a backward step. Like Mayweather, he oozes confidence and machismo. He is the first man to hold championship belts in two weight divisions at the same time in UFC history, so we can say he’s talented but he puts his success down to relentless hard work, a complete fear of failure and a burning desire to be the very best at what he does. And what he does, is fight. And boy does he do it well.
Before all of this, McGregor was a plumber. He was working in Ireland whilst training to fight. He started out boxing but later turned to MMA and his success has been more than rapid, “It’s absolutely insane,” McGregor once said while reflecting on his anonymity when in early 2013, he was still claiming benefits in Dublin before his first UFC contract. “Who has climbed to the pinnacle of the fight game like this? Nobody from Ireland. And to do it in the time I’ve done it, so quick? It’s mind-blowing. But I never forget the struggles. I never forget where I came from. I never ever forget the hard times. I pinch myself because I am surrounded by luxury. But make no mistake – it’s luxury built on sacrifice.”
McGregor represents the culture of the internet generation where fit is fun, success is rapid and money, wealth and status are objects of absolute desire. McGregor is a hugely successful man, not quite in the same league as Mayweather yet but he has built his image and brand around his success through hard work rather than his love of money and desire for status; which are the fundamental building blocks of the Mayweather TMT brand image.
These two modern day gladiators are living, walking, talking brands. They inspire and infuriate millions with their every action. What they wear, what they do, how they act, train, perform, their catchphrases, trademark styles and an unflappable ability to wind up opponents with their own style of trash talking. When these guys walk out in front of the cameras, everyone stops and tunes in as anything could happen when the spotlight is on them. The big question is, come fight night on August 26th which of these brands will come out on top?
Will Mayweather – the wily veteran – defeat the young lion? Or will McGregor finally knock the experienced pugilist off his perch? Either way, whatever the result of the fight, the two mega brands will only grow as a result. The eyes of the world will tune in to see this, and everyone will have their own ideas of how it will pan out but one thing is for sure, TMT and McGregor will only grow, add more value to their massive brands and build a wider audience; even if one of them ends up unconscious.
Looking at the fight and clash of the brands, the feeling is that McGregor is in a no lose situation. Nobody expects him to win the fight but he has been thrust into the limelight with the eyes of the world upon him so his brand is already growing. Mayweather on the other hand has been here before, seen it, done and has several tshirts to prove it as well. Floyd’s brand was flagging a little before his temporary retirement in 2015, the TMT brand was starting to be seen as a bit of a joke in some circles after it’s main ambassador paraded around declaring himself the best boxer the sport has ever seen but failing to knock out any opponents since stopping Victor Ortiz under dubious circumstance in 2011.Floyd is definitely pitched as the bad guy in the fight with McGregor and The Notorius is taking full advantage of the cracks in the image during the presser tour.
McGregor brought humour and flamboyance to the meetings on stage with Mayweather. His approach was fast, witty, aggressive and he never backed down despite being a massive under dog. This was seen by the masses and it was liked. Mayweather on the other hand brought the same old rhetoric as we’ve seen from him before in his previous 49 fights, it was bland 5 years ago and it hasn’t got any better with the 2 year break. McGregor’s brand now extends not only to MMA but also the sport of boxing. His charisma on the presser tour was clear to see and he schooled Mayweather in the trash talking stakes. The McGregor brand stands to profit most from this super fight, whether The Notorious wins or loses…
The power of a brand is huge…