Lessons All Athletes Can Learn From Mayweather vs. McGregor

Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor each had plenty to lose when they met in their epic boxing battle.

I think everyone that took out a loan to watch the Mcgregor vs Mayweather fight wound up being surprised, likely pleasantly, by what took place. Me, as a fighter, expected it to go the way that most other writers had suggested it would—Mayweather would counter, move and pot-shot a frustrated McGregor for 12 rounds. Most of us expected Mayweather to thoroughly embarrass McGrgor for the mistake of taking on what most people, including myself, believed to be the best defensive fighter in history. What we got was far from that.

When a fighter tells the media how he's going to approach the fight strategically, they're lying to you 99 percent of the time. We know this, which would seem to make the question irrelevant but oddly difficult to avoid asking in some obligatory way. Maybe forcing them to lie makes it easier for us to judge them should they lose.

But Mayweather did something different; he told the truth. He said he would be aggressive, walking McGregor down and forcing him to exhaust much more energy than what he's used to in order to keep Mayweather off of him. And with Mayweather's lack of output, he would trick McGregor to give in to his own adrenaline rush and believe he may actually have a chance. The problem with an adrenaline rush is that the inevitable adrenaline dump is soon to follow. This is something that didn't seem to get mentioned in McGregor's camp. What made this even more interesting is that this style of fighting is so drastically different from the Mayweather style that nobody in their right mind would ever have believed he was going to do it. But he did.

Floyd Mayweather

Mayweather is a fighter often labeled as "boring" by people who don't know or understand the sport. At least not to the extent that they believe they do. The flip side of that are the fighters and coaches who have lived it. Boxing is about hitting and not being hit back. Mayweather is not a risk taker, he fights safe. He gets away with it because his skills are so far superior to those he fights that the often lopsided fights lose any real excitement due to his lack of desire to finish off his opponent, opting instead to ride out his victory on massive point differential. Exciting, usually not. Smart? We'll know in 10 years.

"So what's the lesson here?" you might ask.

Mayweather was aware of his own criticism and equally aware of his legacy and how he wanted to go down in history. He said he was going to give the people what they wanted to see, mostly because of what he knew the fans saw as a letdown when he fought Manny Pacquiao. That mega fight, as it was billed, wound up being as one-sided as most of Mayweather's other fights. It was also, in the eyes of people who truly know boxing, a masterpiece. Nonetheless, in what he knew was his last fight, Mayweather wanted to go out giving people something the fans hadn't seen him do. That was to stalk someone until he was able to take him out. He did.

He risked his legacy by doing exactly what sports people said he needed to avoid to win a fight with someone who had no business being in the ring with him. He said what he was going to do, against all advice and "wisdom," and was successful at it. He did it knowing he would be criticized during and after the fight, but he had enough belief in himself to ignore the critics and naysayers.

We're warned every day of what we shouldn't do and why we shouldn't do it. Probably with more regularity than we're told what we SHOULD do. It's the problem of people being afraid instead of encouraged. The ongoing battle between pessimism and optimism—why something won't work instead of why it will.

Our ability to test that seemingly unstable ground that lies somewhere between what we think we believe and what others claim to know best is where few dare to tread. Often when we do tread there we fail. When we do, those who thought they were supporting us only by discouraging our own longing for more than the ordinary will be sure to let us know they were right. That's a large price to pay for many.

The price of failure not in our eyes but living with knowing how others view us. What if we went back to the drawing board of life and regained our own confidence while somehow calming that voice in our head that tries to convince us that we have to let others decide our value should we fall short of our goals rather than knowing with certainty that those voices don't mean a thing unless we let them?

As for my Irish friend. Connor McGregor, you managed to talk yourself into a $100 million payday. You garnered yourself a fight that you had no business getting. Not only did you have no business getting it, you had no business being in the ring with someone whose skill set was so vastly superior to your own. The problem with this is that nobody told Connor McGregor that he didn't belong there. He was so consistent in his needling of Mayweather that it became almost impossible for the fight NOT to happen.

I say in jest that nobody told him that he couldn't compete; everyone did. Even his own camp was realistic in his chances. Not telling him what he needed to do to win but rather reminding of him of what a great performer he is on the big stage. That translates into "do your best and everyone will be see it as a success."

Those voices never got through to him. Nobody is sure of what he truly believed his chances were, but he certainly didn't fight like an athlete who didn't believe he could win. He proved that through persistence and hard work you can not only succeed in someone else's domain but that you, and all of us, have the ability to create our own domain completely free of the restraints placed on us while trying to follow someone else's rules.

Connor Macgregor

McGregor could easily have found a way out of this fight. I don't believe he ever thought Mayweather would agree to it, and I'm sure he was just as surprised as everyone else when he did. But McGregor didn't bail. He followed through to its conclusion. He made no excuses. The energy most of us use to come up with reasons to avoid doing what needs to be done? McGregor poured it into doing whatever he needed to do to make the best showing of himself. He knew others had no expectations of him winning and he could have let that dim the light he carried with him throughout his training camp. He didn't. He thumbed his nose at anyone who questioned his ability, his integrity and his work ethic. He followed through with what he said he was going to do.

In his own eyes, he couldn't fail. In his eyes, the fact that he made it to the ring that night was his success. Everything after that was gravy, because he knew he became more than himself to anyone following his career.

Both of these men had every reason to fail—the odds were stacked against them both. For very different reasons. Though those reasons were different, their resolve was the same.

They came out and did what they said they were going to do, regardless of what the end result may be. They laid out a plan and stuck to it. They based their success not on how they thought others would judge them but by how they knew they'd judge themselves when it was all over. They didn't let the game play them.

They didn't even play the game. They created their own game, and in doing so they set themselves up for a scenario in which they couldn't do anything other than succeed.

It's amazing what believing in ourselves can bring to our lives. We all claim we do but not many of us are willing to show it when the time comes to make the choice between our voice and theirs. Sometimes you just have to take their voice, grab it by the arm and throat punch it. Drown it out so that all we hear is our own and follow it to its logical conclusion.