By Shawn Smith
For months now, Conor McGregor has been the little nuisance in the side of boxing writers everywhere.
While they try to write about the big fights happening in their sport, they've treated the two-time UFC champion as an afterthought, writing about him out of necessity. Well, a St. Paddy's Day melee might have changed all that.
McGregor attended a fight at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden and it didn't take him long to make himself acquainted with the boxing writers at ringside. He seemed to focus on ESPN's Dan Rafael, one of the most important voices in the sport.
The UFC phenomenon was in attendance to walk Olympian Michael Conlan, also of Ireland, to the ring for his professional boxing debut. Conlan made waves for his attitude, not unlike his MMA counterpart, when he flipped off the judges at the 2016 Rio Olympics and a controversial (a.k.a horrendous) decision that cost him the opportunity to fight for a gold medal.
In the wake of the Olympics, Conlan became the hottest commodity in the amateur boxing world, promoters were dying to get their hands on him.
Ever the businessman, McGregor used the opportunity to build himself up and sell a potential fight against Floyd Mayweather.
According to Rafael, McGregor approached Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels and asked "Who's the boxing guy?", which Samuels responded to by pointing to Rafael.
McGregor approached Rafael and immediately started in on a diatribe that mixed martial fans are all too familiar with.
"I'm the boxing guy. Watch me take over boxing, trust me on that," McGregor said. "No one in this boxing game knows what's coming. Trust me on that."
He then turned his attention to the rumored Mayweather bout, which seems to be getting closer to reality.
"Look me in the eyes, 28 years of age, confident as a mother f***er, long, rangy, dangerous with every hand," McGregor said. "Trust me, I'm going to stop Floyd, and you're all going to eat your words. The whole world is going to eat their words."
For his part, Rafael, not unlike the entire combat sports community, has laughed at the prospect of a McGregor win against Mayweather. While the idea of the bout happening has gone from fantasy to likely, the idea of McGregor winning has not.
It was a sly, impressive foray into the boxing world for McGregor. Pundits in the MMA world are all too familiar with this type of behavior from the Irish hero, but it appears he caught the boxing world off guard last night with his in your face, aggressive style.
And it worked. Shortly after the confrontation, Rafael was on ESPN discussing the incident. Every other major outlet will do the same. It's likely this coverage will continue throughout the weekend, possibly even overshadowing what is an excellent fight between unified middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin and dangerous opponent Daniel Jacobs.
This is what McGregor does. He knows when the media gathers, he knows how to work them into a frenzy.
When he won the lightweight championship from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, he was keenly aware that he needed to have two world title belts in the cage. He was screaming at UFC officials to get him his second belt. McGregor knew the image of him holding both belts was unlike anything the sport had seen before and would be plastered on sports pages across the globe. And he was right.
McGregor is no longer just a nuisance; he is a force to be reckoned with. He'll continue to use his media savvy mind in the coming months to build towards a fight that now seems inevitable against Mayweather.
From your pals in the MMA community: look out, boxing world. You're in for a wild ride.
Conor McGregor Sets Boxing World Ablaze with Antics
By Shawn Smith