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'UFC is more for the instant gratification generation' - Andy Lee

Lee chatted to Second Captains about his upcoming opponent Billy Joe Saunders, the pressure to sell-out Thomond Park and UFC interim Featherweight champion Conor McGregor.

Andy Lee takes on Bily Joe Saunders on 12 September at Thomond Park.
Andy Lee takes on Bily Joe Saunders on 12 September at Thomond Park.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

WBO MIDDLEWEIGHT CHAMPION Andy Lee was on Second Captains yesterday and chatted about a variety of topics, including his upcoming opponent Billy Joe Saunders, the pressure to sell-out Thomond Park and UFC interim Featherweight champion Conor McGregor.

Lee’s homecoming organisers are expecting a crowd of nearly 30,000 at the home of Munster Rugby in what Lee has called a “a once in a generation event”. Although the Limerick man has openly said that fighting in front of a home crowd is a dream come true and a landmark moment in his career, he doesn’t feel like he has to sell-out the venue.

“If it didn’t sell out or does sell out, it doesn’t really matter. What matter is the fight itself and I think, no matter what the crowd is, there will still be a great atmosphere in there,” he said. “I put a lot of pressure on Adam and Frank Warren and kind of convinced them to bring the fight to Limerick because I wanted it to be there. The tickets are going very well so by all indications, it will sell-out…so that’s a relief.

“The important thing is the fight. If I sell out and then lose, what’s the point? More people see you fail and that’s not what you want.”

At one point, it looked like the fight might take place in England instead of Limerick. Frank Warren, who promotes Saunders, believed it would generate more money if it was held there and Lee admits it took some “financial convincing” to get the fight announced in Ireland.

“It took financial convincing. We had to make certain guarantees for them. The way the deal was structured was, because Billy Joe took the step-a-side to allow me to fight (Peter) Quillin, that this fights would be negotiated on a 50-50 basis and joint promoted by Adam and Frank Warren. Whereas, usually the champion would be favoured. With the WBO, it’s usually 60-40 to the champion. So wherever was more profitable was where the fight would be. So Adam put together a package and ran the numbers. What ever happens, whatever tickets are sold, he [Billy Joe] will still be paid X amount.”

Lee also admitted that, while he is a fan of a certain ‘notorious’ Irishman, he doesn’t feel like he could promote a fight in the same way.

“(Conor McGregor) is a phenomenon. But for me to start carrying on like that, it would be out of my character and people would be like what is he doing? But he’s done great for himself in what he has created. It’s a cultural phenomenon, isn’t it? More people know about UFC in Ireland and it’s because of him. Before him it was a niche sport.”

“I’m a big fan of his, I’m not a big fan of the UFC but I’d watch his fights. I think the UFC is more for the instant gratification kind of generation. The YouTube video watching generation. Where you’re in, two guys fight each other and it’s over quickly. It’s a quick pay-off, whereas with boxing it’s more of an investment and sometimes you don’t always get the pay-off. But you have to appreciate what you’re watching in terms of artistry and the history attached to boxing.”

A phoney war has been brewing between the mixed martial arts and boxing communities for quite a while but Lee doesn’t really see them to be in competition. Although, he does see lessons boxing could learn from the UFC.

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“They (UFC) are exploiting boxing’s lack of organisation. They have one guy organising it, calling the shots and one champion in each division. It’s exposing boxing’s lack of organisation and co-operation with each other, in a way.

McGregor has become one of the UFC's biggest stars. Source: John Locher

Changes in Boxing

“Al Haymon is starting this new thing in America, this PBC Championships. That’s where it looks like he’s going. If you look at any the PBC fights, that Al Haymon promotes, they don’t show any of the belts. None of the champions are announced. Even my fight with Peter Quillin, I wasn’t announced as middleweight champion.

“In that way, I kind of think looking back that he missed weight intentionally because they wanted it to be a non-title fight. It’s happened several times in those PBC fights, or the fights are at a catchweight or the championship fights don’t take place because they don’t want the belts involved.

“They want to eventually have the PBC Championship. That will be there own thing, a unified thing.”

Lee also commented on his upcoming opponent Billy Joe Saunders, who revealed some startling views on women in boxing recently and had to apologise for his comments.

“He’s a silly boy. I think it was a bit tongue-in-cheek. But as a sportsperson in this day and age you can’t say anything like that. I think him and the guy that interviews him, they kind have that rapport and dynamic when they talk where he is outrageous and the other guy lures him in with these questions.”

One the back of the disappointing news that Katie Taylor won’t be competing on the undercard, Lee also revealed further bad news concerning another beloved Irish sports star. Lee and his promoter had been trying to organise for Paul O’Connell to carry the middleweight belt to the ring during the Limerick man’s walkout but unfortunately he will not be able on this occasion. No replacement has been found, as of yet.

“Not yet. That was reserved for him so we will give it a while before we find his replacement.”

Read: ‘He fought all bums’ – Poirier not convinced by Duffy’s boxing credentials

Read: McGregor describes Faber as ‘an annoying little brother, only he’s close to 50 years of age’

About the author:

Donal Lucey

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