Conor McGregor stands to win the greatest return on a parlay bet in the history of Las Vegas despite losing his big gamble in the boxing ring.
McGregor fought like a man. More importantly, and surprisingly, he looked like he belonged in a ring with Floyd Mayweather as much as Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, and Ricky Hatton did. Mayweather made a career on frustrating and embarrassing opponents. He eventually frustrated the Irishman. He never humiliated him. McGregor beat expectations on the biggest stage possible even if he did not beat Mayweather.
This matters. Look at the history of pay-per-view kings. Mayweather wore the Money Crown by beating Oscar de la Hoya, who blew up his brand by beating Julio Caesar Chavez. Mayweather never properly coronated a successor by laying down his crown. But more so than any man he shared the ring with, McGregor stands to benefit from the rub.
His rematch redemption against Nate Diaz established the cage-fighting subscription high-water mark with 1.6 million buys, not even half of what this past weekend’s card generated. In his next UFC fight, no matter if he faces Nate Diaz or Don Frye, McGregor eclipses that record. Obviously, without as attractive a dance partner as Mayweather, McGregor does not approach in the octagon the number they did this weekend in a boxing ring. But on his brand alone, he beats the UFC’s high number.
King Conor transcends the sport. People not inclined to watch cage fighting—those among us sans neck tattoos who earmuff the sounds of nu metal—watch Conor McGregor. This weekend, and the charisma, old-school ethnic pull, and the big hands delivering on the promises of the big mouth, did this.
McGregor’s bargaining position with his bosses has never been better. With Ronda Rousey officially joining the lover-not-a-fighter ranks with her marriage to Travis Browne this past weekend, Anderson Silva increasingly resembling Grady from Sanford & Son in his athleticism, Brock Lesnar looking fierce as a fake fighter in the WWE, and Jon Jones facing a possible four-year-suspension for alleged steroid use, the UFC looks at a stable containing exactly one cash cow, a 155-pound beast who nevertheless produces enough milk to keep the farm afloat.
Perhaps the UFC can add Georges St. Pierre to that list if he returns to form against Michael Bisping. And the promotion possesses an amazing ability to turn faint flickers into bright stars overnight (see, Conor McGregor). But, right now, it’s McGregor or bust for the UFC.
And like their biggest star, the promotion that risked much in allowing its most-easily promotable star to venture into a boxing ring, ultimately gained much. They pocketed tens of millions for merely allowing McGregor to box. Beyond this, they watched their big fish in a small pond evolve into Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Muhammad Ali. Sure, he’s not the best ever at his craft. But he’s the face of it. And by standing toe-to-toe with the greatest boxer of this generation, McGregor brought the UFC loads of credibility. These aren’t the toughest guys in the trailer park. They’re amazing athletes.
So Conor McGregor perhaps donned the dark glasses postfight to hide the welts, bumps, and bruises. But maybe he donned them because, as the song says, the future is so bright he’s got to wear shades.
Never has a loser in the squared circle come out the winner to the extent Conor McGregor did.