During July’s press tour for the Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight, both fighters sprayed plenty of vitriol at each other, but McGregor also found a media target: Showtime executive vice president and Showtime Sports general manager Stephen Espinoza. After an incident where McGregor’s microphone wasn’t live during Mayweather’s remarks on the tour’s first stop, McGregor said “Fuck Showtime too, you little weasel; I can see it in your eyes that you’re a little bitch,” on stage to Espinoza. That’s now sparked a strong response.
Espinoza made some comments in response to McGregor and UFC CEO Dana White (who took McGregor’s side on some issues and caused some other problems) in July during the tour, telling Ariel Helwani his patience was “running thin” and “definitely thinner now.” However, he was relatively circumspect during those remarks, which made sense considering that he still had a fight to promote.
Now that the fight is in the past, though, Espinoza returned to Helwani’s The MMA Hour Monday, and he unloaded a bit more on McGregor and had some remarks about White and the UFC as well. He said he didn’t particularly mind McGregor’s insults of him, but disliked the way McGregor’s comments targeted Showtime’s staff:
“It bothered me a little bit,” Espinoza said. “I think anyone who is personally insulted is bothered. But I’ve been called a lot worse by people I respect more than Conor, so that in itself wasn’t a big issue to me. What bothered me about the whole thing was his comments about Showtime.”
…“I know my staff and I know the kind of people who work for us,” Espinoza said. “On that timeframe, on those 72 days, there are literally dozens of people who are giving up dinners with their kids, time with their spouses, giving up things that they would rather do with their nights and weekends for the success of this pay per view, which ultimately the bulk of that money is going to Floyd and Conor. And making them both very rich men.
“So to have Conor insult them, by extension, to say ‘f’ Showtime or whatever, when there’s an entire team of people who are making personal sacrifices to make sure his event is successful and generates money for him, it just seemed a really short-sighted comment and really unprofessional.”
The “I’ve been called a lot worse by people I respect more” is a great line, and it brings back memories of Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau’s response to Richard Nixon calling him an asshole, “I’ve been called worse things by better people.” Espinoza certainly has a point, though, especially when it comes to McGregor (who likely made over $100 million off this fight) criticizing Showtime staffers who get much less money than him. And it was also interesting to hear what he had to say about disagreements with White and the UFC:
“The reality, there’s just different ways of doing things,” Espinoza said. “It’s not one sport versus the other. It’s two different businesses, two different organizations and how they do things. There will be a miscommunication and differences of opinion. There were both along the way. Sometimes they were very pleasant and collegial. Sometimes they were more blunt and a little gruff. But it was a thing for the most part that was really out of the ordinary for this event. It’s making sausage. It’s an ugly process sometimes.”
Referencing Pierre Trudeau and a famous quote apocryphally attributed to Otto von Bismarck in the same interview? That’s some pretty good statecraft from Espinoza. And he goes on to say that the UFC was a fine partner overall, and much easier to work with than HBO (who they teamed with on Mayweather-Pacquiao). But it’s still interesting to hear him with the gloves off a little more now this fight is over.