Disruption Never Comes From Within

conor mcgregor vs floyd mayweather jr

Photo by Esther Lin

Every business misses the future and gets disrupted by an outsider. This happens because the incumbents are stuck in their ways, doing the same thing over and over again and never zoom out to take a look at the macro view.

This happens everywhere, including domains where you least expect. Case in point: the fight business.

The upcoming boxing match between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC champ Conor McGregor has created madness across the sport of boxing and MMA. If there’s a sign that this is going to be big, last week’s 4 day world tour was a rousing success no matter what you think of the shaenanigans between these two. Still, many boxing pundits say it’s a money grab for both and it shouldn’t happen.

It should be noted that most of these people do not follow MMA or have any experience in either boxing or martial arts; they’re simply color commentators. They all believe that Conor McGregor, who has never boxed professionally, will be out boxed by the experienced Mayweather; even though Conor is a younger and more complete fighter.

Pundits argue that because this will be a boxing match, not an MMA match, the advantage goes to Mayweather because he’s the experienced boxer. But, there are some who see beyond the obvious. Such is the case of Fight Network’s Robin Black, who takes a wider view of the situation in his 1st breakdown of the upcoming fight.

Watch Robin Black examine McGregor vs. Mayweather Jr. from a fresh, fascinating angle and attempt to open the minds of those who simply refuse to even consider the possibility that McGregor can beat Mayweather Jr.:

If you’ve been following Robin Black long enough then you aren’t surprised by his thoughts. In the breakdown, he doesn’t rely upon the tired cliches that we have been hearing constantly since the saga began, by arguing that Conor is younger, bigger, stronger, more powerful and thus anything is possible in spite of Mayweather’s superior boxing skills. Rather, he comes at the argument from a more philosophical angle.

In the breakdown, Black suggest that McGregor’s greatest asset in this fight is the fact that he is not immersed in boxing or influenced so strongly by it’s rigid nature or fixated on it’s traditions.

“You know who should have invented Airbnb? Marriott Hotels,” says Black, starting a strange metaphor. “But they didn’t, because they’re so far up their own ass in the micro of running hotels that they could never, ever see outside of where they are. So, change instead comes from some eggheads down in Silicon Valley.”

“Disruption never comes from within. Every disruption is caused from the outside because everybody on the inside buys into the bullshit.”

Here’s the two main ideas from his breakdown and how it ties to the above:

  1. Everything evolves. Boxers from 40 years ago aren’t as good as today’s boxers. Just like any other sport, people’s skills evolve and get better. Does this mean that boxing is evolving? Yes, but still not much has changed.
  2. Disruption never comes from within. Boxing hasn’t changed in a while, there’s a common structure to how boxers compete against each other. It’s the same for every industry and business, where best practices exist and everyone follows them to the T. Differentiation disappears in favor of efficiency, this creates a common way of doing things. It’s the reason why disruption never comes from within an industry; but from the outside. Disruption happens when an outsider doesn’t follow the same practices, develops new ones, and competes differently; changing the game in their favor.

This is the part that pundits have a hard time understanding because people can’t adopt a new perspective when they hold on to old ideas. 

For me, the point is simple: Conor’s not a boxer, but he is a complete fighter that stared his career in boxing. He’s not going to out box Floyd, he’s going to play a game only he can win.

What game is that? We don’t know and will have to wait until the fight to see. But I assure you he will, because that’s how he’s always operated. Just look at videos of his MMA career and you’ll see how he’s evolved over the last 4 years.

The nature of innovation is disrupting the old to create the new. Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a lesson in how disruption happens at the macro level. In this case, Conor is the disruptor and boxing is the incumbent. Can Conor beat Floyd Mayweather Jr.? He sure can. But if he doesn’t, that will open people’s eyes for other MMA fighters to try boxing; and boxing will have to do a head check and question its assumptions.

To me, that’s progress.


Bottom line: Innovation doesn’t respect tradition. Either you drive disruption or you’re outpaced by it.


Also published on Medium.