ESPN The Magazine’s Fighting Issue—on newsstands Friday—details how divided sports fans are about watching the highly anticipated August 26 bout between MMA champion Conor McGregor and undefeated boxing champion Floyd Mayweather. The issue also delves deeply into these two personalities and what has led them to where they are today.
On the cover: In the definitive profile of reigning UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor, senior writer Wright Thompson chronicles the fighter’s road to stardom, from his youth in South Dublin to his apprenticeship as a plumber to MMA champ. “Crossing Crumlin Road” offers a rare glimpse into the Irishman’s reality, one that won’t let him fully escape his roots. Thompson also addresses the fine line between McGregor’s private and public personas: “Drawing such a line, creating a character to sell, always carries the same risk: losing control of your creation and actually becoming the preening egomaniac you once only pretended to be.”
In addition, the feature explores McGregor’s close relationship with trainer John Kavanagh and the tremendous impact he has had on McGregor’s life and career. For example, Kavanagh’s unique ability to anticipate what McGregor needs mentally includes summoning local artists to paint a graffiti-like mural of Conor hitting Mayweather in his new training space so he would have that image in his mind. Thompson’s feature also explores that even though someone like McGregor is rising, his fall feels close enough to touch, noting that McGregor lives in a near constant state of fight or fight, which Kavanagh attributes to nature more than nurture.
Issue highlights and features:
What Makes Mayweather Money
Floyd Mayweather’s former sparring partners, among them current IBF welterweight champ Errol Spence Jr., DeMarcus Corley and Zab Judah, discuss the many offensive, defensive and mental weapons that have helped Mayweather get to 49–0—all the things Conor McGregor will have to be prepared for when he steps into the ring. By Dotun Akintoye
Why We Watch: Real, Not Pretty
Award-winning author and boxing fan Walter Mosley offers his take on why people watch boxing and are drawn to the Mayweather-McGregor fight. He writes that boxing, both beautiful and brutal, reveals parts of ourselves we need to see, describing it as “the poetry of the working class.” Mosley also examines the reasons sports fans continue to support Mayweather despite the fighter’s violent dark side.
Why We Won’t Watch: No Good Guys Here
The Undefeated senior writer and commentator LZ Granderson provides a different take—why some people won’t watch the matchup. Between McGregor’s racist barbs and Mayweather’s homophobic jabs, Granderson says there is little to root for and no good reason to tune in.
Tale of the Tape
Will the boxer or the brawler come out on top? Insiders Dan Rafael and Brett Okamoto go toe to toe with their predictions. The bottom line: It will be a long night for McGregor.
And the Fighter Still Remains
Through the eyes of part-time boxer Jose Haro, senior writer Tom Junod uncovers the driving forces that compel so many boxers to compete in a sport that takes so much from them and seemingly gives so little. Junod highlights Haro’s love-hate relationship with boxing, chronicling the fighter’s June title victory over featherweight Daniel “Twitch” Franco that nearly killed Franco.
Cristiane Cyborg Justino
Cristiane Justino, also known as Cyborg Justino, is the most fearsome women’s MMA fighter on the planet—but these days, she often wonders whether the weight cutting that could push her body to severe dehydration, heatstroke or even heart failure has been worth it. Justino’s body, a sculpted 5-foot-8, 170-pound weapon, is her greatest asset. It is also her most formidable obstacle—at once the root of her successes—and failures. At age 32, the 12-year veteran has finally found a stage to match the talent her team insists is unrivaled. In July, she competed in and won her first Ultimate Fighting Championship belt in UFC 214. By Hallie Grossman (Link: http://es.pn/2w0g9K3)
Portrait of a Mixed Martial Artist
In a gritty two-page photo spread, the post-fight faces of several mixed martial artists who competed in June’s Bellator 180 at New York’s Madison Square Garden show the euphoria of victory and the bitterness of defeat in every cut and bruise.
Béisbol Experience: In the latest installment of the season-long series that explores the intersection of Latino culture and baseball, contributing writer Robert Sanchez looks at the budding career of 18-year-old Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who is trying to carve out his place in the game in the shadow of his famous father.
The issue also features a four-page fantasy football preview that includes:
Matthew Berry’s Love/Hate: The fantasy football senior writer’s annual look at players primed for big years and those he wouldn’t recommend to his worst enemy. Sneak peek: Don’t draft Matthew Stafford or Ben Roethlisberger before reading this.