Hype Men: To buy or not to buy in on McGregor v. Mayweather

Conner McGregor is an excellent fighter, who is taking the world by storm. The 28-year-old UFC Featherweight and Lightweight Champion has highly entertaining—often short—fights with unbelievable regularity, he can dominate opponents with devastating strikes from both his left and right hands, and he transcends weight classes like Jonah Hill or Christian Bale. The UFC has never seen anyone like Conner McGregor.

But what makes Conner McGregor unique has nothing to do with the aforementioned reasons. There have been better mixed martial artists than McGregor. Anderson Silva was not only unbeaten in his prime. He was unhittable. Georges St-Pierre could takes opponents to the mat in ways Conner McGregor could only dream of. Even with all that, even with McGregor’s second round submission to Nate Diaz last spring. There is something different about McGregor. Something that seems bigger mixed martial arts, itself.

During periods of massive growth, almost every game has its own Conner McGregor. Baseball had Babe Ruth, golf had Arnold Palmer or Tiger Woods (depending on the era), basketball had Michael Jordan, skating had Tony Hawk, boxing had Ali, fantasy sports had LaDainian Tomlinson, and home video game systems had Mario. However, with the exception of Ali, McGregor might be one of the first transcenders aware of his status.

McGregor’s breathtaking confidence, his Vince McMahon-esque strut, and his press conferences—so outlandish that Dana White can’t keep a straight face or conceal his money boner—have created a persona that could swallow the sports world whole.

By that, I mean financially. Even the most popular UFC fighters can only snag a couple million dollars for headlining a pay-per-view. That’s far bellow what the 155-pound Dublinian loudmouth is actually worth.

Unless UFC decides to fork over the stock options that McGregor requested after his most recent triumph over Eddie Alvarez, McGregor has to look elsewhere if he wants the payday he believes he deserves.

Most small Irishmen know how to find their pot of gold. All it takes is navigating ones way to the end of a rainbow. Conner McGregor’s hopes he’ll find Floyd Mayweather and the end of his rainbow.

McGregor would never admit it, but he is trying to emulate Mayweather, and why wouldn’t he? Fighters have a short lifespan, especially in a sport like UFC where literally anybody can lose. So you have to capitalize. It’s safe to say Mayweather did. Since turning pro 20 years ago, he has earned $700 million for 49 victorious fights. Over a quarter of the money came in one night. He made $220 million in his 2015 matchup with Manny Pacquiao. A spectacle most feel better resembled a middle school dance than a boxing match.

Reports on McGregor’s career earnings range anywhere between $9-$18 million, more than any UFC fighter, but a less than modest figure compared to top boxing contenders.

Regardless of sport or league, McGregor is currently the biggest name in the fight game. His knockout power, something you seldom see from Floyd Mayweather, often make for highly entertaining fights. His mastery of self-promotion captivates the viewing public and creates a buzz around every octagon he steps in. But if McGregor wants to make what he thinks he’s worth, he’ll have to climb out of the eight-sided cage and step into the squared circle.

McGregor told TMZ he wants a $100 million straight up, if the boxing match happens. He claims that Mayweather is too afraid for a real fight.

Though Mayweather doesn’t feel that McGregor should be mentioned in the same breath as him, my gut tells me that a man who nicknamed himself of his most prized possession, “money,” will have difficult time passing up on one last nine-figure payday. Especially, since many believe it will be an easy night’s work.

If Mayweather agrees, and McGregor decides to take a temporary hiatus from the sport he has spent his life mastering to fight the generations greatest competitor at his own game, he will be an underwhelming under dog. Oddsshark.com speculates a +950 payout for McGregor, and a staggering -2250 for the favored Mayweather. If the fight happens McGregor will most likely lose. Don’t think he doesn’t know that. Sure he could get lucky and land a big punch. No boxer has in the past 20 years, so it is highly unlikely, but you never know.

The real question is should fans buy into the hype. The same hype they spent $90 a household on to watch Mayweather and Pacquiao shuffle around each other, for a heartbreakingly boring 45 minutes. I would hope not, but if this crossover match is anything like the brawl between Sylvester Stallone and Hulk Hogan in Rocky III, it might actually be worth it.

 

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