The claims levelled against McGregor first arose during the opening two legs of the four-date journey through North America and Europe to generate publicity for their August 26 clash when he told Mayweather “dance for me, boy” – a phrase that has racial overtones.
And in trying to diffuse the situation in New York, the UFC lightweight champion only inflamed it by stating “I’m half-black from the bellybutton down,” before appearing to refer to black people as “dancing monkeys” when discussing the film Rocky III on a chat show.
Before the two faced each other for a verbal tussle in the ring in front of a 10,000 crowd at SSE Arena, Wembley, undefeated former five-weight world champion Mayweather rounded on his rival.
“Racism still exists. It’s all about treating people like you want to be treated. To get respect you must give respect,” said Mayweather, who subsequently called McGregor a “f****t” on stage. “He totally disrespected black women. He called black people monkeys. Then he spoke disrespectfully to my mother and he spoke disrespectfully to my daughter.
“There are certain levels you don’t stoop to and certain levels you just don’t go to. I love everybody from all walks of life.”
Irishman McGregor, who has predicted he will win inside four rounds despite never having previously boxed as a professional or amateur, rubbished the suggestion he is a racist.
“You can be fooled by him if you want to be fooled by him. You know the man’s character and his history. He’s trying to sway people in his favour and it’s a cheap move,” McGregor said.
“I was trying to address something in my own little way but whatever, if he feels it’s disrespectful then he’s an idiot and f*** him as well. It’s a dirty play. I think it (the accusation that McGregor is a racist) is ridiculous. I don’t understand it. I know who I am as a person and I think that most realistic people will look at me and know who I am.”
McGregor was by far the more popular when the two fighters arrived on stage in front of a packed Wembley crowd.
Cheered on by a swarm of supporters whose spirits were not dampened by a near-two-hour delay to proceedings, a suit-clad McGregor goaded the 40-year-old with taunts about his age, bald head, tiny hands and tax bill.
He remarked that four years ago he had fought in front of only 400 people at a small venue in London, adding “this is my first time in a boxing ring and in six weeks I’ll rule boxing”.
Mayweather was booed as soon as he took the microphone and endured a hostile reception from the pro-McGregor crowd throughout his performance, which featured heavily on the MMA fighter’s record of having tapped out three times in his career.
Happy to perform the role of pantomime villain, he repeatedly called him “quitter” and tapped the desk behind which he sat, but was repeatedly told to “sit down, shut up” by the crowd.
“The tour became a verbal battle that people were scoring and I didn’t anticipate it being so back and forth,” McGregor said. “If we are going to score it then f*** it, let’s do that – I smoked him on all four rounds.
“LA was a 10-9, my suit went viral, Toronto was a wipeout 10-7 because he was dropped twice. I won New York and then here I smoked him again. For a 40-year-old man he has his childish ways and that’s amusing. This is a ruthless business and I am ruthless.”
While the money generated by the clash in Las Vegas is expected to eclipse the previous record held by Mayweather’s victory over Manny Pacquiao, its credibility has been questioned. McGregor, who turned 29 on Friday, is a boxing novice and is facing a man regarded as the finest fighter of his generation.
“They call that jealousy. It comes with the territory. This is big for both MMA and the boxing world. This is huge,” Mayweather said. “Every MMA guy is trying to fight a boxer. A fight like this can only happen once in a lifetime. This is a very, very big event.
“It took more than just myself to make this fight happen, but to make a fight of this magnitude happen I had to be involved.”