In Sports Commentary

Boxer Floyd Mayweather (left) will face MMA fighter Conor McGregor on Aug. 26.

Knees to the Grounded: Excitement of Mayweather-McGregor is in the buildup

It's one crazy summer and I'm Uncle Frank, minus the smokes and rotary phone.

These days, man. It really doesn't matter who you are or where you stand, everyone now has the ability to place themselves as a target. They probably wouldn't be wrong either. We're pretty much eating each other alive.

As a writer given a massive amount of flexibility in topic you would think this would provide for a copious amount of material.

As an emotional wreck, it only provides for chaos in a world in which order is needed to create.

Deep breath. Look out the window.

Bullets ravage both urban and suburban. Opiates are prescribed like Tic Tacs, and we have the nerve to talk about a crisis. And all this talk about coal jobs; can we start a VHS factory to get the economy booming too?

I turn on "Check Your Head," realize it's summer … and the need to LIGHTEN UP. Lighten up right now.

And boy, howdy, as crazy as the real world has become, combat sports have decided to one-up it.

Like our President's interpterion of reality, a sizable portion of the fight business has always been more about perception than fact.

The barkers shout from afar, "Step right up!"

Intrigued. You make your way into the tent. He tells you that you're walking upon rose petals. You look down, close your eyes for a second, and take it all in. The familiar aroma of (lies) wood fills your memory banks. You open your eyes and look down again.

No, there are no rose petals here. It is in fact sawdust below your feet.

But at that point you do not care. You're already there. Waiting to be sold. Heck, you've been sold.

Make no mistake about it, fighters are the most athletically gifted on the planet. Controlling another human being's body is the most difficult endeavor in sport.

However, the gift of gab is crucial in the business of prize fighting. And the truly talented yarn spinners always rule the day.

Enter one midsized Irishman with death in his fist and a golden tongue.

Less than four years ago, Conor McGregor was an unknown Irish mixed martial arts fighter on the public dole. Just entering the UFC, probably making $10,000 to show, $10,000 to win.

On Aug. 26, McGregor will face one of boxing's greatest fighters in Floyd Mayweather. In a sport in which he has never competed, he'll make well over $100 million.

When initially exposed to this news, as a writer and fan of all things combat, I could not have been more disappointed. A mockery of both disciplines, I thought. We now have an affair of exhibition that has little hope for settling anything we don't already know. Mayweather is 49-0. His brilliance is unquestioned. Conor is 0-0. That's it. What are we doing here?

Boxing has had a fantastic 2017, its greatest year in decades. The heavyweight division is building momentum as Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder both have valid No. 1 claims and captivating fight styles. Smaller divisions are making headway too, with guys like Andre Ward, Gennady Golovkinand and Canelo Álvarez, moving front and center. The sweet science is working its way back into the mainstream sports lexicon.

Even though MMA has had a slow year, there are still compelling matches to make in Q3 and Q4, with high potential for some young stars to make a dent into the marketplace come 2018.

So, why do this fight? Common sense says Conor will lose a very boring lackluster track meet with Floyd doing his best Carl Lewis impression.

Boxing fans will then lay claim to the best fighter on the planet. MMA fans will dismiss Mayweather as scared.

Casual fans will shake their heads at getting fooled again, walking away with potato chip stains on their shorts, chicken wing fingers and a mild late-summer hangover.

The carnival barker eyes the most skeptical in the crowd and yells, "You sir! Care to have your wildest dreams come true? Care to take a chance? If you miss it, you'll regret it forever!"

And I guess that's what this fight is all about. The ultimate heel versus the ultimate baby face. The woman-beating kazillionaire vs. the plucky plumber's apprentice that said it would be so, and it was.

For it is in the buildup, the anticipation of the unexpected, the unbelievable, that we truly can draw pleasure. That's what the barker is tickling. The most unrealistic visions of our desires, whatever they may be.

All remnants of a great dream bought by the money mark in all of us.

As "Check Your Head" continues on the hi-fi, what's best is to probably take the plunge. Enjoy the circus while it's in town. Come Aug. 27, as the tents come down and the animals are being marched back into the wagons, all things combat will go back to our special brand of normal (wish I could say that for our world, but normal is done guys).

But until then, I'll Lighten Up.

News and notes

Traditionally, there are two dates that stand out on the MMA calendar: New Year's Eve and the Fourth of July weekend. Two tentpoles by which we, as fans, can measure the current state of the sport.

And despite UFC ownership still showing its inexperience in building and promoting new stars, the International Fight Week (see the UFC's version of All Star weekend) brings forth back-to-back nights worthy of notice.

Hardcore fans want to keep divisions moving. The NFL reigns supreme at this, with weekly matchups, in December the playoff picture emerges and the best play the best in January. Pretty simple.

Look no further than Saturday's main event as women's bantamweight (135 pounds) champ Amanda Nunes gets a second look at Valentinia Shevchenko. Shevchenko has made a case in getting another crack at the current champ, going 2-0 in the division since losing to Nunes in March of 2016.

The UFC would like nothing more than to have Shevchenko take that title from Nunes, and she just may do it. Nunes currently sits in UFC purgatory as the fighter to put the final nail in the coffin of one Ronda Rousey. She's a beast early, but the party gets rougher on her as the fight extends. If she can touch up the Russian-born fighter early, then I see no reason she won't continue her title reign. She beat Rousey. Took the belt from Holm. She can certainly finish Shevchenko.

Shevchenko may be the most athletically gifted woman in the UFC. Fighting credentials aside, she is also a world-class dancer and is highly ranked in the world of competitive shooting. So, let's see. Grew up in Russia. Lives in Peru. From flamenco to salsa to ballet to ballroom. Sharpshooter. And can throw them bungalows. If she stays patient and drags the fight out late, we should have a new champ.

Saturday's co-main event is certainly the best brawl that the middleweight (185 pounds) division can make, and one that will truly build out the No. 1 contender in the class.

Scary, scary, scary Olympian and World Champion wrestler Yoel Romero takes his brand of schizophrenic violence against Australia's Robert Whittaker. These two are the elite in the division and both pack an edge-of-your-seat kind of possibility that keeps barber shops in business. Both are undefeated in the UFC and both have aggro seeping from their pours. And this scrap matters.

Love, love, love this fight.

Casual fans just want the violence for violence sake, and, gosh darn, the folks at the UFC thought of them too.

Friday's Main Event (remember we're going back-to-back here) unleashes the debut of longtime lightweight destruction magnet Justin Gaethje against the always-game Michael Johnson.

Most casuals have yet to hear the name Justin Gaethje, as his lightweight championship reigned supreme (155 pounds) in the World Series of Fighting organization since March of 2013. Undefeated in his career (17-0), Gaethje has consistently put exciting fights together since 2011. He's the kind of guy this writer worries about when it comes to CTE in the fight game. Reckless abandon should be tattooed on this guy's tongue. His fights are masterpieces in brutality. And, head trauma be dammed, Johnson will absolutely comply.

Can Justin wrestle with Michael? Sure. Should he slow things down and look for a safe win? You bet. Did the UFC hire him to do that? No. Will he do that? Hell no!

This may be the best fight of the weekend.

And look at what we have here. The hometown champ is back, as Milwaukee's own Anthony Pettis looks to climb the ranks of the lightweight division, facing New Jersey's working-class hero, Jim Miller. Miller remains one of the division's stalwarts; guy always cracks hard and has an exquisite ground game from someone who doesn't scream out Jiu Jitsu black belt.

If Pettis creates space, Miller has the kind of style that may lend well to the highlight strikes that the former champion is known to display. That said, if Miller crowds Pettis and forces the fight against the cage, the Milwaukee son could be in for a long evening.

The fighting season does little to slow down over the course of the next few weeks, as the UFC returns at the end of the month for a stacked affair featuring the return of Jon Jones. And then, yeah … we have that whole boxing thing to think about in August.

But until then, stay hydrated and enjoy the fights!

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