Multiple winners have come out of the weekend's superfight in Las Vegas. Floyd Mayweather delivered a great show on the verge of retirement, broke Rocky Marciano's record and collected another huge paycheck. The sport of boxing showed superfights can be intriguing and that there is more than just weirdness beyond the actual title rankings. But the biggest winner might be the man who lost by TKO. Conor McGregor was outmatched, but he made the best out of it.
The 29-year-old capitalized on the patients of Mayweather early on, more or less dominating the first rounds, although two judges disagree with that statement and Mayweather probably carried his opponent to some extent. When McGregor later became tired, as expected, he wobbled through the ring but never went down thanks to referee Richard Byrd. There are a few pictures ready to be included in the punch face meme. There is no picture showing McGregor on the canvas, though.
He was not humiliated. Instead, the Irishman earned the respect of many fans due to his performance and the way he handled the loss. McGregor not only knows how to enter a different sport against one of the sport’s very best in impressive fashion, he also once again delivered how to be humble after the affair has ended.
What is next for the notorious one? At the post-fight press conference, he insisted that he could step into a boxing ring again. But he also said that he will return to the UFC. Personally, I think McGregor should not stick to boxing. Saturday night’s superfight was probably already the pinnacle of his boxing adventure. His learning curve has been nothing short of impressive. And he held his own against one of the best ever. That said, he proved that he is nowhere near the top of the sport. He threw sloppy arm punches and could not pace himself well. This should, of course, not degrade his performance.
Just imagine he would face someone like Erislandy Lara, the current WBA super champion at 154 pounds, or the winner of the middleweight showdown between Gennady Golovkin and Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. If McGregor does not make another jump skill-wise, he could be outboxed worse than he was against the aged version of Mayweather who also started slowly as always. But it is Magic Mac we are talking about, so who knows.
From a financial standpoint, however, every fight against any other boxer than Mayweather would not generate the same box office. Even a ‘grudge match’ against his former sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi, who stayed professional throughout the entire Showtime broadcast, would only draw a fraction of the money all parties involved earned.
In the MMA world, McGregor has at least three options: he could defend his UFC lightweight title against the winner of Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee, a fight that takes place at UFC 216 in October. This would certainly be a respectable choice, and from a sporting perspective the right one. McGregor could face Nate Diaz for a third time, trying to win the trilogy with his foe from Stockton. The PPV number for that fight should easily jump above one million buys.
As the UFC is already treating their Irish superstar differently than any other member of the rosters, McGregor could finally have his wish fulfilled and headline an event at Croke Park or the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, although the Irish weather between October and April does not favor this idea. McGregor would enjoy a hero’s welcome any athlete would wish to receive once throughout their career.
Speaking of fights that could take place outside the U.S., McGregor’s third option within MMA is a fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia. This has been discussed before and could turn out to be a unique event with the potential to draw a huge crowd. McGregor is probably crazy enough to accept a fight in Moscow or even in the Dagestani capital of Makhachkala. Against Nurmagomedov, the superior wrestler, and a hostile crowd, it could be a fight for the ages. The intrigue of this would lay in the novelty of a UFC event in Russia and the view many still have that Russia is some sort of wild country.
In any case, McGregor is set for life financially, came out of Saturday night’s fight unhurt and has several options on the table to continue his combat sports career. Not bad for someone who suffered a TKO loss.