I thought I was going to have to title this, ‘Conor McGregor Should Stick to UFC,’ but Saturday’s boxing extravaganza got me. So, I changed “UFC” to “Boxing”. So, this is ‘Conor McGregor Should Stick To Boxing’ because if you watched first-time boxer Conor McGregor take on all-time great boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. this past weekend, then of course, you will not ever want to see the fighter in UFC again because he will be too busy in professional boxing.
The fighter from Ireland did not have it easy coming into any fight, so his first ever boxing match against Mayweather was destined to be added to the list. McGregor has had a lot of new and first fights. It seems like just yesterday McGregor was turning heads as the new leader of MMA fighting. Just looking at his biography makes you giddy. At just 29 years old, he made a transition from one country to another and one sport to another. There is no doubt that he is tough. Still, with all of this fight, a lot of questions lingered about Conor McGregor. How tough is Conor McGregor? How tough does Conor McGregor think he is? Is he tough enough to be the greatest fighter in UFC for a generation? Is he tough enough to take on another sport? Is he tough enough to fight against the leader of this other sport to prove it? All of these questions connect naturally to McGregor’s background, so perhaps, McGregor felt no other choice but to take a leap into an unfamiliar ground against an obviously tougher opponent. The answers to the questions, furthermore, could not be fully answered until the fight on Saturday.
When Mayweather agreed, the fight was on and the fight only was on. With an opponent like Mayweather, there would be no room for narrative or any other kind of talk. McGregor of course talked all the way to Saturday with the high stakes of him competing in a new first-ever feat, but on fight night, as predicted, only the fight was on. McGregor did a couple of unique things on Saturday. First, he came to the ring with this straight look on his face and then when he got in the ring, he started smiling. It looked like he had been in there before. I’m not sure what look McGregor was going for with not smiling at first and then not being able to stop smiling, but he accomplished it. It was a look between new boxer newness and great boxer greatness, which could not be a better look for the storyline of a new boxer trying to convince us all that he’s a great boxer. The second unique thing McGregor did is the most important thing he did, and that’s fight well. Most agree that he won the first 4, maybe 5 rounds. He landed some punches, 26 percent of them ( some predicted less, like 20 percent ). Once gloves were touched and rules were set, McGregor again looked like he’d been in there before, maybe twice before. He danced around the ring, swung left, right, straight, under, and over. The overhands got him in a bit of trouble, but it did not stop the fight. It was more of a giggly moment than a moment to stop because it was the moment that we realized the challenge of a UFC star turning into a professional boxer. He did it several times on the back of Mayweather, which proved that they were just natural jitters and not McGregor wanting to seriously harm Mayweather. We are all glad that McGregor did not try to seriously harm Mayweather, but instead fought him well.
The third and final unique thing that McGregor did is the next important thing he did, and that’s lose the fight. The important thing about the loss is how he lost. Ding, ding, ding: He got tired. He really got tired. By round 10, McGregor’s body was leaning against the ropes, hands defenselessly down, and face swelling from several consecutive hard hits just seconds earlier by Mayweather. McGregor’s victories in the earlier rounds made a difference in time and you could tell the difference between the rounds. McGregor was wincing for air by round 6. By round 7, he’d slowed down his dancing. By round 8, his punches were not landing anymore. Round 9 was McGregor attempting not to wince, still dance, and still punch, even though he was through. It was like watching the fight that you thought all along was coming for a new, unknown boxer, or like the fight you thought was coming all along for a new, unknown boxer but you looked away because the boxer was Conor McGregor, or like the fight you couldn’t think of because that’s just the way an old-timer roughing up a newcomer goes. Whatever the case, the fight was one until the fat lady sang. Getting tired is nearly a perfect excuse, so McGregor should not feel bad. Mayweather, I suppose, got tired too by round 10. He got tired of McGregor beating him at his own game. He got tired of not ending it early. He got tired of all the celebrities yelling at him from the front row. I am glad that McGregor fared well enough to get tired because at the same time it showed his UFC star turned boxer weakness, it showed his true toughness. Conor McGregor is an impressive boxer, but even more so a true fighter.
Saturday’s outcome was interesting because it reaffirmed what we know in our hearts about fighters. We know in our hearts that we did not have to wait until Saturday to see Conor McGregor in a big fight. All one has to do is search on YouTube, “Conor McGregor UFC Highlights,” and there you have McGregor dancing around a ring, resting in a corner, and knocking people out. Conor McGregor is a real fighter. For those who do not already know, or did not believe McGregor Saturday, or was mad at him after Saturday, it might help to do that YouTube search and immerse in what he has done. McGregor’s previous opponents say more about him and explains why he chose to step inside a new fight against a new opponent. His rivalry against Nate Diaz, for example, shows that McGregor has been beaten before and that he has gotten back up. The highlights remind us that even as he is new to something, he is used to something. The highlights show a fighter who is used to challenging a tough opponent. If anyone can step inside an octagon, then step inside of a square, it is Conor McGregor.
It might also help to take a look at some future boxing opponents for McGregor to reaffirm our belief. Opportunity is waiting around for McGregor following his latest showdown, so we cannot completely dismiss either the UFC or professional boxing route. For the loss, it might seem easy to say that McGregor doesn’t need to step inside a boxing ring again, which is partially correct. He made $30 million from Saturday’s fight, so I imagine he could go home, stick to UFC, and be happy that he tried a new sport, but will not ever try it again. But even if McGregor does not need to step inside a boxing ring again, we need him to step inside a boxing ring again. I mean, he lost ( Did I mention he lost? ). A loss can mean so many things, so maybe McGregor, solely for McGregor, does need to step inside of a boxing ring again. There will be a valuable difference next time. The next time McGregor enters a boxing ring, the spectacle of UFC fighter turned boxer will have settled down and we can focus on opponents better matched for McGregor. There are several young, tough, and hungry superstars who would put up a great showing against McGregor, like Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, who face each other soon. McGregor’s size and toughness enable him to continue. The fights will provide the experience for McGregor to continue challenging a boxing legend of his choice. Of course, the legend I am thinking about is Manny Pacquiao, who recently had a showdown against a young boxer. Wanting McGregor to stick to boxing does not necessarily mean wanting him to stick to taking on legendary boxers, but Pacquiao fits right beside Mayweather. Pacquiao is nearing 40 years of age and retirement soon just like Mayweather and McGregor will still be young for awhile, so McGregor will get his hopes, dreams, and money up again by going against another legend. Alvarez and Manny are perfect contenders because they have a special relationship with McGregor’s previous opponent. Both competitors have fought Mayweather. As far as how McGregor would fare against the others in boxing is a sure seller, as all have faced McGregor’s toughest opponent and lost.
The endless possibilities bring me to other questions for McGregor: How does McGregor compare to Mayweather? We have gotten over the hump of McGregor losing and discussed how he lost, but does this loss matter in the grand scheme of two superstar competitors? The two showed more in common than not on Saturday. We do not know if they will share the same favorite color, or food, or television show. But we do know from Saturday that not even sport matters between the two. The fact that McGregor challenged Mayweather says a lot, and indeed, a lot was said during the build-up. The fact that McGregor did not get cold feet and call in fake-sick and entered the ring to give us a fight says a lot. The fact that McGregor won rounds and stayed in it through the end says a lot.
Alongside McGregor’s highlights from Saturday are Mayweather’s fight and professionalism toward McGregor. In spite of Mayweather playing old and stubborn and not ending it early as many predicted, the long fight was good because we got unpredictability instead. We got to witness the unpredictability of Floyd Mayweather Jr. coming out of retirement. We got to witness the unpredictability of the legendary boxer versus a non-boxer, which was just as interesting, if not more, than the unpredictability of McGregor in his first ever boxing match. We got to witness Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the ring for quite possibly, quite seriously the very last time. For longtime fans of Mayweather, Saturday was a real treat. We got to brag on the endless accolades of our favorite and make up many reasons for him to win yet another fight. Saturday was almost like watching Mayweather fight for the first time again. He did not move as quick, but he fought as hard. He finished the fight. He finished what he started 21 years ago, and in some ways, what he started just hours, minutes, seconds earlier, as the legend made a grand entrance into the unpredictable showdown. He won. We have to thank Mayweather for Saturday’s bout.
We have two fighters to commend for Saturday’s fight: Mayweather and McGregor. History was made again on Saturday. As for what is next is a great lingering question. Mayweather said that he will not box again, and we have to believe him because he said, “Ladies and Gentlemen” in a solemn tone when asked about his future in boxing. Then again, he came out of retirement this time at age 40 to fight a top fighter of another sport at age 29, so who knows? What we do know is that even if we do not know what Mayweather is going to stick to, we know what Conor McGregor should stick to.