Bob Bennett says interest from Arum, De La Hoya, gave Conor McGregor credibility as a boxer

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor has been working on his boxing in preparation for an Aug. 26 fight with Floyd Mayweather. (Getty Images)

Conor McGregor is one of the elite fighters in the world. In November, he knocked out Eddie Alvarez in the second round to win the UFC lightweight title, in the process becoming the first fighter to hold two UFC belts simultaneously.

He went into that bout as the featherweight champion, after having knocked out the great Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds.

But when McGregor began to talk about boxing unbeaten Floyd Mayweather, that became a problem for Bob Bennett, the executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission.

Bennett’s job is to approve matches, and he’s known for being tough, turning down many bouts as mismatches.

When he looked at McGregor, he saw a lot of positive attributes. But there was one set of numbers — 0-0 — that was troubling for him. McGregor wanted to box Mayweather, the greatest boxer of this generation and one of the best of all-time, despite no amateur or pro bouts.

Bob Bennett, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. (Getty Images)

Bennett cited McGregor’s striking skills, his size advantage, Mayweather’s two-year inactivity and his advancing age — Mayweather is 40 and McGregor 28 — for approving McGregor to fight Mayweather.

But the urgings of two veteran promoters, who pushed their own best fighters as alternatives to Mayweather, also impacted him.

Top Rank’s Bob Arum, who has promoted boxing for more than 50 years, and Golden Boy’s Oscar De La Hoya, each offered to have their biggest star fight McGregor if he couldn’t get a deal done with Mayweather.

“The fact that Bob Arum offered Manny Pacquiao, his best fighter, and Oscar suggested Canelo Alvarez, his best fighter, as guys to fight Conor said a lot,” Bennett said. “They were both very interested in a fight with McGregor, and those are two world-renowned promoters. Bob has been around for so long and seen about everything, and Oscar has been in this business most of his life, as a fighter and a promoter.

“To me, while I understand their interest was financial, but that gave Conor more credibility. I kind of think Conor is the best UFC fighter and I’ve always thought highly of him. His mind is equally as strong as his body and he has an incredible will to win. That makes him twice as dangerous, in my opinion. And when two premium promoters were willing to put their guys in against him, that added a lot of credibility to the guy.”