When dealing in hypotheticals, it’s important to remember there are no wrong answers. That makes my job pretty easy. Even Conor McGregor, himself, cannot say with 100% certainty what will happen on August 26th or how the rest of his career will turn out, as a result. So why not speculate?
Naturally, though unfairly, many fight fans are looking towards Mayweather vs. McGregor as a battle of boxing vs. MMA. If Mayweather wins, boxing wins. If McGregor wins, MMA wins. Ignoring the fact that this is a completely false narrative, people rarely let the truth stand in the way of a good story.
Under strict boxing rules, this fight has literally nothing to do with MMA. Just like Michael Jordan striking out at the plate has nothing to do with basketball. Now I understand that the analogy is a little different considering the visual parallels, but the point is not far off.
Still, it’d be hard to argue against a McGregor win being a gigantic statement. I’ve heard some go as far as saying it would kill the sport of boxing all together. And while I don’t believe that, it would certainly be a heavy blow to the egos of the boxing purist who look down their noses at those ‘barroom brawlers human cockfighting inside a cage’.
So as an MMA fan, you should be rooting for a McGregor victory, right? I mean, why not? Conor’s a heavy underdog, Floyd’s got those pesky ‘character issues,’ and it’d likely be the biggest moment in the history of sports. All sports.
But could a McGregor victory also be the end of his MMA career?
I don’t want to speak for the man, but I believe it’s pretty clear that there are two major factors that drive Conor’s decision making. The first is unquestionably Money. But I believe Legacy plays an equally large role.
Defeating Floyd Mayweather at his own game would be a huge success in both areas. It could very well cement his legacy as the greatest combat sports athlete of all time, and he’ll be making an ungodly amount of money in the process.
Given a victory, why would Conor ever return to MMA? Contractual obligations aside – a complicated issue that could potentially bar McGregor from taking another boxing match without the UFC’s permission/involvement – what’s the incentive to come back?
He’s already won two belts and avenged his only loss inside the Octagon. He stands to make less money fighting for the UFC than he would by sticking with boxing. And he’ll likely be the biggest name in both sports, as the one and only man to defeat Floyd inside ring.
Technically, the money could be there either way. As long as Conor doesn’t embarrass himself, I can guarantee some promotion will be willing to shell out the cash in order to book Conor in another boxing match. But I can’t help but believe that a loss would negate all that.
Conor is a very prideful individual. Look at how he reacted to the Nate Diaz loss, almost obsessively trying to prove that a rematch would go the other way. He, of course, was correct in his way of thinking, but he was also very smart in his approach. He knew what adjustments were needed.
If the Mayweather fight goes the way that experts are saying, simple ‘adjustments’ likely won’t be enough. And no matter how much money is on the line, I don’t see a competitor like Conor McGregor repeated subjecting himself to loss after loss. I would suspect that a return to MMA – the kingdom in which he rules – would be the most logical path.
So that brings us to the aforementioned hypothetical. Which result best benefits the MMA community as a whole? A McGregor victory would help legitimize mixed martial arts in the eyes of the main stream. It would make McGregor – a (possibly former) mixed martial artist – the biggest star in all of sports. And those are good things.
But at what cost is it no longer worth it? Shouldn’t we be rooting for McGregor to return to the UFC? Does a victory over Floyd Mayweather prevent this? Is it better to have all the success that comes with an August 26th victory while simultaneously losing McGregor the mixed martial artist?
Again, there are no right answers when dealing in hypotheticals. But it’s certainly interesting to speculate.