What Conor McGregor's California Boxing License Really Means

Fightland Blog

By Nick Wong

Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC

As most readers probably already know, Conor McGregor received a boxing license from the state of California this past Wednesday. Now for the overly anxious, they might think that this somehow increases the chances of a showdown with boxing kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. It doesn’t. In fact, it really means little in relation to the prospects of that fight, but could hint at a move that’s even more important to combat sports. But let’s start with why the super-fight is still virtually impossible despite the news.

First, let’s begin with the California State Commission. Yes, getting a boxing license does mean McGregor can step into a boxing ring and compete professionally, but anyone with $60, a name, the ability to fill out four pages and pass a medical exam can earn that right as well. It also doesn’t mean that said person is able to fight anyone of their choosing in their pro debut. Athletic commissions oversee the safety of the sport, after all.

“I wouldn’t,” Andy Foster, executive officer of the California commission, told RingTV.com on whether he would allow McGregor to face Mayweather in his debut. “Because I would have to see where he’s at. I’m not saying that fight couldn’t be licensed in the future but I would need to see—and I think the world would need to see—where Mr. McGregor’s skills are at in boxing.

“He could certainly get on a fight card. Then the thing is, who does he fight? We got to remember—he may be the UFC champion but he’s a debut boxer. He’s way too experienced (to fight another debut fighter). I don’t think you should fight the top, high, high level of the sport in his first get-go (either). But I do think he has to fight on a high level if he boxes. But I consider Mayweather the highest level of boxer.”

As to whom McGregor would fight if not Mayweather or a fresh debut fighter, well, there is a number of fighters in line willing to take on the task (and the payday) since the news has dropped. One of them is the very vocal Pauli Malignaggi, a veteran of the sport who has been a strong advocate for making boxing better as a whole. He views McGregor’s entry into boxing as a sign of disrespect.

"At first I was telling Conor to stay in his lane and I was thinking 'you know what, you are going to embarrass yourself' but if you are really going to disrespect the sport of boxing like that then I would like to be the one to teach you that lesson,” Malignaggi said in an interview. "I would never disrespect your sport and tell everybody 'you know what, I could beat the best fighter in the cage'. You shouldn't come to our sport and tell everybody you could beat the best fighter in our sport in a ring.

"I know you apologized about absolutely nothing last fight but after I am done with you—I am going to knock the beard off you homie—you are going to be apologizing for everything you have been trying to do to get into boxing."

Another vocal contender is Mikey Garcia, the undefeated and once renowned two-division champ who recently returned from a two-year hiatus. Being a California resident (and native), licensing restrictions wouldn’t be an issue. Garcia is also confident on his chances.

“He has good boxing skills for MMA … he’s a good striker… but his boxing abilities would not allow him to compete against world champion boxers. His level of boxing—I don’t see it being that much better than an amateur fighter,” Garcia said to the LA Times. “He makes a lot of mistakes he can get away with in MMA, but not boxing, and if he really wants to fight in California…Floyd won’t fight him in California, but I’m from ‘Cali,’ so if he’s serious about trying something, let’s do it.”

This brings us to another one of many roadblocks. Mayweather’s last 14 professional fights have taken place in Las Vegas and it isn’t because he enjoys the weather. Instead, it is the tax laws surrounding prohibitive income that don’t apply in Nevada that brings his fights to the Sin City. Furthermore, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe has not only completely shut down the notion of a potential matchup, but has gone on to predict how the fight would go down in harsh criticism against the Irishman.

"It's all a game. It's all a calculated effort to gain more fans," Ellerbe told ESPN. "He got a boxing license. Congratulations to him. Conor McGregor can say anything he wants to but he has a boss and his name is Dana White. He is under contract to the UFC and if he wanted to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match he can't because his bosses wouldn't allow that to happen. The brass [from WME-IMG] who recently purchased the UFC are very smart people and they would never—and put this in bold caps—let him step into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather because everyone knows what the outcome would be. He would get his ass beat from pillar to post."

As to whether Dana White would be open to such a matchup, well, the best one could extract is that he would “bless” the matchup should all of White’s conditions be met (and they won’t if Mayweather has any say in it). But Ellerbe may also be onto something. McGregor’s feign into the squared circle is probably more about negotiating his contract with the UFC than with actually fighting Floyd Mayweather. Fightland reported last month on McGregor’s demand of a company share after his dominate performance over Eddie Alvarez and generating 4 of the 5 highest grossing PPVs for the UFC. As of this writing, those negotiations have pretty much gone nowhere and the timing of earning his boxing license would seem far from coincidental. Sure, there are still a number of contractual tangles to overcome for McGregor to actually fight anyone inside a boxing ring, but a move to make that prospect any more possible is a bold one. He is, in some ways, directly challenging the very establishment that pays him to fight, and judging by his past, who knows how far the Irishman will take it. It will be interesting to see how the UFC responds and where this all eventually goes.

That is, at least, probably more worthwhile in discussing than a fight that will never happen. 


Check out these related stories:

The Evidence For (and Against) a McGregor – Mayweather Fight

Jesse Reid's Lessons, And The Man Who Beat Floyd Mayweather Jr.

On Mayweather vs McGregor and Why We Talk About Fights That Will Never Happen