LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor was drinking Irish whiskey and acting like he had won. Floyd Mayweather Jr. was reminiscing about his early days as a fighter and looking forward to a different kind of business at his strip club.
There were smiles all around, and with good reason. They pulled off an audacious gamble Saturday night, and all that was left to do was to count the money rolling in.
Mayweather estimated his take at $300-350 million. McGregor said he likely would clear $100 million, and said he had his accountants on speed dial to make sure it was all collected.
Fans of both boxing and mixed martial arts had to be happy, too. They got a reasonably entertaining fight that settled nothing about the two sports but embarrassed neither fighter.
“I enjoyed it very, very much,” McGregor said. “It was an honor for me to showcase my skills.”
They go their separate ways now, after a fight that had a little something for everyone. Mayweather won by battering McGregor around late until it was stopped in the 10th round, but in reality McGregor was a big winner too.
He was reasonably competent as a boxer in his first pro fight. He actually controlled the first few rounds, and was never off his feet despite taking a beating in the late rounds.
Mayweather eventually figured him out, and exposed him for the boxing novice he was. McGregor didn’t become king of boxing like he predicted before the fight, but he won millions of new fans and now will likely return to the UFC as its unquestioned star.
Well, 50-0 has a nice ring to it, passing the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano that serves as a benchmark in the sport. He got a knockout that helped erase the stain from his fight with Manny Pacquiao two years earlier. And, after earning nearly $1 billion in his 21-year career, he can get on with his varied businesses and maybe even train a few fighters himself.
“You won’t see me in the ring anymore,” Mayweather said. “Any guy calling me out, forget it. I’m OK. I had a great career.”
Indeed, he did, winning every time he got into the ring and building his brand wisely so he could make a fortune off it. No boxer has ever marketed himself like the man who calls himself Money, and he can now relax and enjoy his private jets, mansions and courtside seats to NBA games around the nation.
The criticism of the Pacquiao fight will now fade away, and the last image of the best defensive fighter of his generation will be of him coming forward boldly and going for one final knockout.
“I felt like I owed the fans a last hurrah,” Mayweather said. “I told you guys I’d come straight ahead and I told you the fight would not go the distance.”
The fight itself played out much like many in boxing expected. McGregor got off to a good start, Mayweather figured him out after a few rounds, and after that the only question was whether Mayweather would stop a fighter legitimately for the first time in nearly a decade.
He did, battering McGregor around the ring in the 10th round until the referee moved in to stop it. McGregor didn’t protest, though afterward he said he wished he would have been allowed to continue.
But that was a minor quibble. McGregor may have lost but in just a few short months he did what few could have anticipated and made himself into a decent boxer who carried one of the best ever into the later rounds while remaining upright the whole time.
He may have been new to boxing, but he proved to the disbelievers in the sport that he was a true fighter.
“I was a little taken aback by the disrespect and disregard I was shown,” McGregor said.
At the age of 29, McGregor is a rare superstar with a quick wit and mouth to go along with his combat skills. The price for his UFC fights will cause UFC chief Dana White some sleepless nights because in a way he is almost bigger now than the organization.
And, who knows. He may venture back into the boxing ring someday if the price is right.
“I’m young, I’m fresh and I’m ready,” McGregor said. “Right now I’m a free agent. I love a good fight and tonight was a good fight. I can’t tell you exactly what’s next but something will be next.”
That’s the one thing that seemed assured as Saturday night blended into Sunday morning on the Las Vegas Strip. McGregor was sipping a whiskey he plans to market, and on his way to an appearance at a hotel nightclub.
Mayweather had an appearance of his own to make at his new strip club, where he held meet-and-greets the entire week of the fight.
First, though, the two fighters posed for final pictures, an arm around each other. They hugged, seemingly reluctant to let it all go.
The carnival was leaving town, but not before putting on a pretty good show.