The four-city press tour to promote the upcoming Conor McGregor-Floyd Mayweather fight had plenty of crazy moments, from journalism controversies to rants against Showtime to profane interviews to racist and homophobic insults. And it even wound up swinging the fight line significantly, in McGregor’s favor. Former UFC fighter Brendan Schaub, currently the co-host of podcast The Fighter and the Kid (with Bryan Callen) and the host of solo podcast Big Brown Breakdown was one of the featured commentators on Showtime’s press tour coverage, alongside host Mauro Renallo (seen at left above with Schaub) and Showtime boxing analyst Paulie Malignaggi, and he spoke to Awful Announcing about the experience last week ahead of their event in New York. Schaub, who played NCAA football at Colorado, played in the Arena Football League and spent time on the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad before his MMA career (and was involved in plenty of big moments there as well), said the press tour was the most remarkable event he’d been around.
“I’ve been part of some big events between football and mixed martial arts, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. ” I don’t think anyone could kind of anticipate what we’re seeing. It’s crazy. The arena [in Toronto] was 17,000 people, it was delayed almost an hour because there was an influx of people that just kept coming in. They had to close the gate.”
Schaub said Mayweather’s willingness to compete with McGregor in trash talk was impressive.
“From the fighters, I think Conor is in real form. He’s doing his best, he’s doing what he’s known for. But I’m surprised by Floyd Mayweather too. I thought two years off, he’s 40 years old, he’s going kind of get outclassed when it comes to the trash-talking department, but he’s held his own, which just makes it more of an exciting event.”
He said the biggest surprise came from Mayweather’s performance in Los Angeles.
“The most surprising moment, I think, was when we kicked this thing off in Los Angeles, and Conor didn’t—not to his fault, it kind of surprised all of us, we didn’t know before how this was going to go,” Schaub said. “So Conor comes out, he gives his speech, he did his thing, and then Mayweather comes in and he kind of set the pace. He had good material ready to go, I don’t know if he had Will Ferrell writing his jokes or what, but he was prepared. And I think he outshone Conor in Los Angeles. And I mentioned on the broadcast, ‘I think Conor’s going to learn from this and we’ll see in Toronto, he’ll steal the show, and we’ll see why everyone’s counting on him to sell this thing.’ And he did exactly that in Toronto. He took over, he hit a home run.”
Schaub said his role on the broadcast is not just to provide a MMA perspective, but also a case that McGregor has a real shot despite competing under rules Mayweather is more used to. He’s predicted that McGregor can win, and he’s standing by that.
“I’m the guy who is predicting the unimaginable,” he said. ” I was the first guy to do it, and I still really believe it. I know some people think I’m doing it to get ratings, to get a rise. I have no idea why they would think that. Anyone who’s followed me, I passionately think Conor has a legit shot in this fight. My role really is to give that perspective, the MMA viewpoint on why Conor has a shot in this fight, why it’s not a circus act. From where I come in mixed martial arts, [I talk about] what makes Conor special and why this fight came to fruition.”
He said the on-set chemistry he’s developed with Malignaggi has made the broadcasts fun.
“The chemistry between me and Paul, it’s special and you can’t pay for that. It is what it is and we work well together. Paul, I feel like I’ve known the guy forever, he’s a really good friend now, and we’ve only worked together for three days.”
Schaub said the broadcasts were about both breaking down the press conferences and setting up the actual fight.
“In press conferences, it’s all about the hype and kind of critiquing what they brought that day. And you can only talk so much about that. It’s more about ‘What happens if Floyd does this?’ Especially the old-school boxing heads who hate me right now, they go, ‘Well, Conor, he’s not a boxer.’ You keep saying that, but boxing is a part of mixed martial arts, and he happens to be one of the best strikers in the history of mixed martial arts. He knows boxing. He doesn’t have the 300 fights like Floyd Mayweather does, but the guy can freaking box. For god’s sake, quit saying that.”
As for Schaub himself, he said his football background was important to launching his MMA career and his subsequent success as an analyst and podcaster.
“The biggest thing with football was I played in some big games,” he said. “Especially when I was at the University of Colorado, we were good, ranked in the top-15 in the nation, played in three Big 12 championship games, and played in all these big bowl games. It gave me a higher level of competition. And also just the work ethic, going from football and kind of being the guy who was always known to outwork guys, bringing that to mixed martial arts probably helped me the most.”
The Fighter and the Kid is hugely popular these days, pulling in over four million downloads each month, but Schaub said it started from an unlikely connection with Callen.
“The Fighter and the Kid happened because I was a guest coach on The Ultimate Fighter, season 14, and one of the coaches brought in Bryan Callen to make the kids laugh, and Bryan and I just hit it off. I had just moved to LA, this was six years ago, and I didn’t know anyone. But Bryan gave me his number when we were in Vegas, so I decided to meet up with him for a coffee. He was a little too eager to meet up, I thought. He goes ‘Man, we should do a podcast,’ I said ‘All right,’ and the rest is history. And we just keep on keeping on. And thank god I don’t get punched in the face any more because I started that thing.”
Schaub says he never expected to have the media career he does now, and he’s surprised by it.
“I am. If you told me what I’d be doing with my life five years ago, I would have laughed in your face and asked you what drugs you were taking. It’s been a whirlwind, man, I’m so fortunate. And I’m never satisfied. I’ve got to keep on keeping on. But life is good.”
He has further goals in sports media, but being part of this tour ticked off a big one for him.
“Being involved with the biggest fight in the history of sports is a big one. So this is a big one. But my comedy tour has been going great, I just shot a thing for Comedy Central. And just to be involved with Showtime is one for the books for me. And hopefully a bigger role comes the night of the fight. But these broadcasts have been getting 10 to 12 million viewers, so I think we’re on to something. I like the chemistry of me and Paulie, but I think the fact that it’s Conor and Floyd that’s really driving it. But in my egomaniac world, I think it’s the chemistry of me and Paulie.”
The Mayweather-McGregor fight will take place Aug. 26 on Showtime. Thanks to Brendan for his time; you can follow him on Twitter here. Also check out his podcasts, The Fighter and the Kid and Big Brown Breakdown.