It’s make or break for The Notorious One on his return to the octagon, writes Nick Peet.
Conor McGregor may have been named as the world’s highest paid athlete by Forbes last month, but his money-earning potential – in prizefighting at least – is under serious threat next weekend.
‘Notorious’ is the biggest star MMA has ever seen, banking more cash than the rest of the Greatest of all Time (GOAT) list combined. But should he lose his rubber match with Dustin Poirier at the T-Mobile Arena on July 10th his stock will crash dramatically.
The 32-year-old was the first ever simultaneous two-weight UFC champion; he is the common denominator in all five of the UFC’s biggest pay-per-views; and he blew the roof off the earning potential for an athlete in mixed martial arts by truly transcending the sport.
His financial prosperity includes astute business investments outside of the Octagon, as well as a hugely lucrative crossover boxing match with Floyd Mayweather in 2017. But they only came about due to McGregor’s meteoric rise to both UFC featherweight and lightweight champion.
— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) October 7, 2018
The infectious personality and ambassadorial presence blossomed directly due to the fact Conor was one of the leading fighters in MMA. He predicted his finishes, beat up respected champions and consistently delivered in the biggest fights to conquer the sport.
But with only one win in the last five years the wheels are perilously close to coming off. Losing to Poirier again, suffering back-to-back defeats for the first time in his career, would spell the end for Conor as a legitimate title contender.
That’s not to say his days fighting would be over, of course. Even in defeat he would remain a PPV attraction. But it would put him into a different category. No longer a title challenger, he’d have money-spinning matchups with cult heroes like Nate Diaz or BMF champ Jorge Masvidal open to him in the Octagon.
Octagon interview after he knocked out Poirier in their first fight.
Will we see Karate stance Conor McGregor again? pic.twitter.com/x5ujKa5C1o
— stubMMA🇺🇸 (@longlegstub) June 28, 2021
And, in boxing, whilst pervious talk of a Mayweather rematch or Manny Pacquiao superfight would be out for the count, as crazy as it sounds, there are a couple of YouTube stars that would love to ring the tills to the tune of a few million dollars by coupling up with Conor!
Of course, there is a flip side to the UFC 264 main event too. One where McGregor defeats Poirier in Las Vegas, just as he did in 2014 via first round knockout.
A shot at his old lightweight world title will swiftly follow, along with refreshed calls for Khabib Nurmagomedov to come out of retirement for a rematch with a revitalized McGregor. Plus, if he liked, he would have his pick of boxing’s biggest and brightest too.
Then there is MMA’s GOAT conversation that will need addressing. Peerless for his impact outside of the Octagon, inside it, Conor’s potential third reign as a champion, especially after spending so little time in the cage in recent years, would ensure he’s involved in everybody’s fantasy champ conversation.