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Please accept my apology in advance, because the next two weeks are all about one thing: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor. There are no Ultimate Fighting Championship events to think about and boxing is also relatively silent, which leaves us to discuss the Irishman’s upcoming dream fight and what the future has in store for him.
But that’s actually exactly what this column is about: McGregor’s future.
There has been a lot of talk about what happens after the Mayweather fight, assuming he loses (which is a foregone conclusion to most). Nobody is really talking about what happens if he were to pull off arguably the biggest upset in sports history because of the sheer unlikelihood of it all. But what happens if “Notorious” looks good? All things considered, if the UFC lightweight king were to hang around for all 36 minutes and put up a valiant fight, he’d leave the ring a winner to most.
Hell, even Mayweather said it himself.
“If he goes the distance it is a victory for him and in my eyes also,” Mayweather said at media day in Las Vegas on Thursday.
How does that affect his future in the UFC? Well, it’s going to take a pretty penny for him to return to the Octagon. Regardless of what he said about facing Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia, the truth is that Mystic Mac will be returning to mixed martial arts with a great deal of leverage. Nobody in their right mind would think that McGregor would go from raking in millions more than he normally has made in a boxing match to the small, by comparison, paydays the Octagon offers?
It just doesn’t make sense.
As we have seen, McGregor is all about the benjamins. And if he manages to hang around and give Mayweather an actual fight, there’s no way that he would return to the Octagon as the sport’s top draw by a country mile without a pay raise. The increase in pay that McGregor would likely demand is the kind that could break the sport’s payscale. After all, how does one go from making an estimated $75 million to a disclosed payout of $3-$5 million? The answer is that he doesn’t. Rest assured that McGregor’s asking price will, at the very least, double upon his return as he’ll be keenly aware of both his drawing power and how bad the UFC needs him to carry the company on his back.
And then there’s always the possibility that he doesn’t necessarily want to defend his lightweight title and instead jump up to challenge welterweight champion Tyron Woodley or, if he manages to be successful at UFC 217, Georges St. Pierre. It’s not like the UFC will have the ability to control McGregor. Maybe he finds a microcosm of success in the boxing ring and decides that the most money would be made in the squared circle. What if McGregor lasts 12 rounds with Mayweather and decides that he wants to box again? What does the UFC do then?
There are a plethora of options on the table for McGregor depending on how Aug. 26 goes down and it might be a more interesting fight outside of the ring than the one that will happen at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. But it appears that McGregor may be the one with the most leverage after the fight is over.
Mayweather is done and doesn’t need to answer to anybody. Boxing doesn’t necessarily need him as he has -- in a sense -- become bigger than the sport. More importantly, he’s been around long enough to pay his dues, cash out and pass the baton to the next generation. McGregor is still relatively new to mixed martial arts and the UFC needs him. Well, specifically, WME-IMG needs him to prove that they didn’t purchase a lemon. Not that the UFC in itself is a lemon, but this reported $4 billion dollar purchase hasn’t quite gone the way they expected. But McGregor isn’t necessarily the type that likes to play ball. He’s more of a “rock the boat” kind of guy that riles up everyone else on the roster. Notice the increase in fighters becoming more vocal about their pay and trying to talk their way into fights. Or how about the UFC fighters angling for a boxing match? Blame McGregor.
But now he’ll hold the cards regarding when (or if) he returns to the Octagon. A payday like this could see him ride off into the sunset because nothing else will likely match it. Well, nothing in an Octagon. But maybe McGregor has already ironed out these details with Dana White when he was able to land the fight with Mayweather. Could there be verbiage in his contract that outlines when he returns to the cage and how much he’s going to be paid? The UFC better hope so. Otherwise, it’s going to be pretty interesting to see how they handle him on Aug. 27.