HEYDORN’S TAKE: Staying in the boxing world diminishes Conor McGregor’s marketability as a worldwide star


Conor McGregor (photo credit Adam Hunger © USA Today)

Conor McGregor likes to play with fire. It’s a habit that’s gotten him to where he is, but one that could also burn his reputation. That is life for McGregor as a boxer. Since McGregor defeated Jose Aldo for the undisputed UFC featherweight championship in late 2015, he’s become the biggest sports icon in the world. He’s had two mega fights against Nate Diaz that each generated over one million PPV buys and he also secured the UFC lightweight world championship by defeating Eddie Alvarez. With that victory, he became the first fighter to ever hold two belts simultaneously in two weight divisions for the UFC. Oh, and yes, that PPV did over one million buys as well. After a run like that, what’s next? A boxing match with PPV king and the best pound for pound boxer in the world, Floyd Mayweather.

Many scoffed at this, but there was no reason to. Sometimes its ok to strike on something big when the time is right and the stars are aligned. Such was the case with May/Mac. The fight delivered in a lot of ways. The build was entertaining, the fight itself was more competitive than anyone thought it would be, and most importantly it drew 4.4 million domestic PPV buys making it the second highest grossing combat sports event of all time after Mayweather vs. Pacquiao. Even with that success, the lit match that McGregor is playing with in the boxing universe is about to burn him and leave marks that will last forever. He needs to get out. By fighting again in a boxing ring and staying in the boxing world, Conor McGregor will severely diminish his marketability as a major worldwide sports star.

Conor McGregor is not a pro boxer. This obviously proposes quite a big issue because the boxers he’d be in line to fight to make the most money are the best boxers in the world. McGregor won’t win these fights. One of the reasons the May/Mac fight worked so well was because McGregor’s boxing acumen was relatively unknown. The promotion of that fight used that fact to their advantage. If nobody had seen Conor McGregor box then how could someone outright say that he absolutely had no chance to win. That argument has atomic bomb size holes in it but it’s not entirely inaccurate. The problem with future McGregor boxing matches is that everyone knows his skill level now. The “what if” element that made May/Mac so much fun has long been tossed out the window due to the fact that we’ve seen McGregor get trounced against a top-tier boxing opponent in Floyd Mayweather. His fate will be the same in other boxing matches which means if he takes them, he’s setting himself up to become a loser. Yes, he will make a ton of money, but losers don’t stay on top and maintain themselves as worldwide attractions.

The next biggest boxing match that Conor McGregor can have right now is against Manny Pacquiao. This week, rumors were floated around by the Pacquiao camp that negotiations have been started between the McGregor team and Manny Pacquiao for a potential fight. For as big of a star as Pacquiao is, for McGregor, taking this fight is a downgrade. McGregor has already had Floyd Mayweather. He can’t get bigger than that. By taking the fight against Pacquiao or any other boxer, he’ll take it knowing that it will not be as successful as his first toe-dip into the sport. That defines him and his brand down.

Conor McGregor can’t maintain his marketability as a star if the results of what he’s involved with continue to get worse and worse. The demand for McGregor vs. Pacquiao isn’t there like it was for Mayweather vs. McGregor. Mayweather and McGregor had a certain mystic and intrigue because the audience knew both guys were smooth talkers, unapologetically confident in their abilities, and the absolute best that both of their sports had to offer. That isn’t even remotely close to the situation unfolding with McGregor and Pacquiao. Pacquiao has the personality of a paint drying wall. McGregor would eat him alive in the media but wouldn’t be able to back up a lick of it once they stepped inside the ring. That ruins the McGregor brand. Part of his greatness is the fact that he talks a huge game and backs it up. That greatness will fade in the boxing world because he simply won’t be able to back it up against a boxer of Manny’s level. If this part of McGregor’s personality and persona fades, his future marketability and star power will be diminished.

Conor McGregor’s immediate future resides inside a UFC octagon. McGregor’s made an incredible amount of money and will make more in the UFC. Certainly, Dana White is concocting unique ways to pay his biggest star in a similar fashion that he’d be paid in a useless boxing exhibition. Fighting in the UFC is how Conor McGregor further defines his legacy. That truth is most important. He has a plethora of mega fights to take part in that will draw enormous amounts of money and viewers. This includes the trilogy fight with Nate Diaz and a title unification fight in the lightweight division against Tony Ferguson. Those fights continue to move his trajectory upward as a star. Boxing takes him the other way.

Contact Zack at heydornzack@gmail.com and follow Zack on Twitter at https://twitter.com/zheydorn

NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: The UFC hit a grand slam in quickly strapping their rocket to Francis Ngannou

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