Conor McGregor placed himself on a potential collision course with his mixed martial arts paymasters after refusing to rule out further boxing bouts following his defeat to Floyd Mayweather.
The charismatic Irishman, a two-weight UFC world champion, performed creditably before eventually being stopped by boxing legend Mayweather in the 10th round at the T-Mobile Arena.
McGregor, 29, could pocket as much as $100million from Sunday’s fight, eclipsing his entire career MMA earnings in a single night’s work.
While McGregor ended up being comfortably beaten by Mayweather, the MMA star – who had never boxed in a professional bout before the clash – said he was open to continuing in the ring.
“I enjoyed the fight, It was a great contest,” McGregor said. “People ask me what’s next, I’m not quite sure. I’ve multiple titles in the UFC to think about.
“I could also continue in the boxing game…I have many options in mixed martial arts. I’m sure there’ll be options in boxing. Right now I’m a free agent.”
Many in the boxing world had questioned whether McGregor’s bout with Mayweather, which is on track to become the richest fight in history, should even have been sanctioned.
McGregor revealed after the fight he had been stung by the criticism of the boxing establishment.
“There was a lot of disrespect and a lot of disregard for my skill,” he said.
“I was a little bit taken aback by the disrespect and the disregard that was shown. But I always knew that when the fight came around I’d give a good account of myself,” added McGregor, who was competitive in the early rounds before being dominated by Mayweather.
One obvious boxing bout on the horizon for McGregor could be against sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi.
Malignaggi has spent the build-up goading McGregor publicly, creating a grudge-match narrative that is likely to appeal to fans.
– ‘Not what he does’ –
But any plans McGregor has about continuing his flirtation with boxing are likely to be opposed by UFC chief executive Dana White.
White, who was instrumental in helping set up the Mayweather fight, said he would prefer to see McGregor return to the world of cage-fighting – and stay there.
“I would rather he did not,” White said when asked if he wanted McGregor to continue boxing.
“This is not what he does. He’s a mixed martial artist. He goes in and he fights and he uses all of his weapons. Tonight he goes in and is only able to use his hands. I don’t think he has anything else left to prove. I would rather he fights mixed martial arts.”
White emphasised that McGregor’s bout with Mayweather was a one-off, which had built its own momentum due to the status of the two fighters as the kings of their respective crafts.
“This thing built itself from the ground up. From the fans to the media, and then up to us, the promoters,” White said.
“It was just a real special event and a rare event. I’m not looking to do this again.”
White said he had not discussed future plans with McGregor.
“I’m ready to get back in the UFC and do what I do,” White said. “We’re not talking about fighting tonight. You know how he is. When he’s ready he’ll let me know.”
White admitted though that he was proud McGregor had carried the flag for mixed martial arts, noting that he had landed more punches on Mayweather than many other fighters.
“Conor McGregor’s a fighter, and we saw a fight tonight,” White said.
“I don’t know if it was the best boxing we’ve ever seen, but we saw a fight. Conor was in here landing jabs on Floyd Mayweather. Conor McGregor looked damn good to me.”
Provided by AFP Sport
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Irish media hailed Dublin’s Conor McGregor for a gritty display on Sunday following his 10th-round loss to Floyd Mayweather in their Las Vegas super-fight.
The pundits focused on the mixed martial arts star’s endurance and bravery in managing to stay upright for 10 rounds with an opponent of Mayweather’s calibre, particularly as it was his first bout in a boxing ring.
“This was, after all the hype and trash talk, a man entering a new sport and taking on the best and while it was a comfortable win for Mayweather, McGregor has been lauded for the effort he put in,” wrote The Irish Independent.
Online sports website Joe also talked up McGregor’s ability to hang in, having been clearly outclassed after the first three rounds.
“There was to be no almighty shock, but McGregor earned plenty of respect (as well as a helluva lot of money) and can walk away from the encounter with his head held high,” it said.
Other crumbs of comfort were to be found in tabloid newspapers, who knew their readership would be firmly backing the former plumber from the wrong side of the tracks who has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom.
“Conor McGregor landed more punches on Floyd Mayweather than Manny Pacquiao — in two fewer rounds,” noted the Irish Sunday Mirror.
But McGregor also polarises Irish public opinion like no other athlete.
While many people are enthralled by his working-class hero credentials, some regard him as a loud-mouthed thug from an obscure sport parading crass views and garish bling.
McGregor wears his Irish identity with pride and trooped into the ring draped in the national flag of green, white and orange in front of thousands of his supporters, who had spent vast sums of money to fly to Las Vegas.
Ahead of the fight, The Irish Times broadsheet attempted to explain McGregor’s popularity.
“The poster child of an on-demand generation weaned on Sky Sports, raised to believe marketing hype about instant classics, Super Sundays and routine title defences that are fights for the ages,” wrote veteran journalist Dave Hannigan.
“Through no fault of their own, their first language is hyperbole, their default setting exaggeration.”
RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster, gave a nuanced account of the event.
It hinted that a $100 million payday would more than likely soften the blow for McGregor, who had been forced to rely on state welfare benefits before becoming a superstar in the mixed martial arts world.
“The biggest fight in combat sports history was no disappointment, but it didn’t provide fireworks worthy of all the build-up, anticipation and of course all that money.”
Conor McGregor was “brought to school” by Floyd Mayweather and needs to “stay in his lane”, according to former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
UFC star McGregor lasted 10 rounds with Mayweather in his maiden professional boxing match in Las Vegas, as his opponent stopped him to retire with a perfect 50-0 record.
Many had predicted McGregor would barely last a round with one of the greatest fighters of all-time, so he has earned some credit to have stayed the course for as long as he did.
However, the statistics and scorecards back up what was consistently predicted – that he would not have the durability to go toe-to-toe with a master of his craft for 12 rounds.
And, despite his immediate online reaction being to say “I like him even more now”, Lewis told BBC Radio 5 Live’s Sportsweek that McGregor should know his place.
“In the beginning, I didn’t look at Conor McGregor as a boxer, this guy has never been 12 rounds and he’s in there with a professor of boxing,” the Briton said.
“Floyd took him to school, he made him punch himself out and when he was tired he took him out. It’s textbook boxing.
“It shows that boxing is a superior sport. In the ring, you can’t beat a boxer, it’s not as easy as everybody thought it would be, just because McGregor is a fighter. This is fighting where you can only use your hands.”
Despite Lewis’ criticisms, the money the fight attracted means another boxing outing for McGregor seems inevitable, possibly against Paulie Malignaggi who has denied claims he was put down by the Irishman in sparring.
Lewis, though, hopes McGregor’s ring appearance will never be repeated.
“I didn’t see the point of the whole thing,” he added.
“A lot of people found it exciting, could Conor McGregor beat Floyd? It wasn’t the case. It was a case of a textbook style brought to school, Conor McGregor got brought to school. He got schooled.”
Asked if he had a message for McGregor, Lewis said: “Stay in your lane. Boxing is superior.”
Carl Froch admitted he was on the edge of his seat but also believes Mayweather “outclassed” McGregor.
Four-time world super-middleweight champion Froch praised the UFC star’s resilience but the 40-year-old was not surprised by the result.