UFC 246 to Align Stars for McGregor-Mayweather Rematch?

Conor McGregor Floyd Mayweather

Getty Conor McGregor during fight with Floyd Mayweather.

Conor McGregor’s longshot chance at securing a boxing rematch against Floyd Mayweather Jr. begins against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 on January 18 in Las Vegas.

McGregor broke the internet in 2017 when the UFC’s original “champ champ” agreed to step inside a boxing ring to challenge the sport’s biggest superstar, Mayweather, at his own game. The massive event was panned by some but still managed to sell more pay-per-views than any other fight in history aside from Mayweather’s 2015 superfight against Manny Pacquiao.

UFC 246 takes place January 18 at 10 p.m. Eastern time. It will air as a pay-per-view on ESPN+.

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Despite getting off to a strong start during the opening rounds, McGregor ultimately lost to Mayweather via 10th-round stoppage. Still, for a fight that some saw as a huge waste of everyone’s time, Mayweather-McGregor turned out to be a wildly entertaining combat sports spectacle with massive fan appeal, especially for those operating within the confines of the mainstream sports community, a coveted group that usually doesn’t pay much attention to fight sports.

Since their first encounter, McGregor has lobbied hard for the rematch multiple times, but Mayweather has mostly rebuffed the idea whenever approached about the matter. Still, one has to wonder if Mayweather-McGregor 2 might still be on the table based on how well the first fight did along with several other contributing factors.

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Dana White’s Deal With Mayweather Adds Intrigue to Storyline

UFC president Dana White reportedly made a deal with Mayweather for the retired boxer to compete in some capacity later this year. While the full details of the agreement have not yet been disclosed, White did confirm to ESPN that Mayweather would fight and that it would likely be in some kind of crossover promotion.

“We can do some crossover stuff here or we can do something in boxing,” White said, per ESPN. “Our last experience, Floyd was actually pretty easy to deal with.”

But history suggests Mayweather won’t be getting inside the Octagon anytime soon– at least for anything other than a staged photoshoot designed to tease fans.

Besides, the 42-year-old retired boxer already had the opportunity to compete in MMA and even maybe tilt the rules in his favor against a much smaller opponent when he agreed to an exhibition bout against RIZIN kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa in December 2018.

But that event eventually unfolded as a straight rules boxing match in which Mayweather knocked out Nasukawa, a fighter he likely outweighed that night by over 20 pounds, in just one round.

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Proposed Mayweather-Khabib Bout Doesn’t Make Much Sense

Should Mayweather be seeking to box yet another MMA fighter in a crossover bout, there aren’t many fighters beyond McGregor that make much sense.

Indeed, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would probably disagree with that statement. In fact, Nurmagomedov might even feel slighted by the UFC and Mayweather should Mayweather-McGregor 2 be announced later this year over Mayweather-Khabib.

After all, Nurmagomedov submitted McGregor in the fourth round at UFC 229 in October 2018 to solidify the Russian as one of the premier MMA fighters in the world today. Moreover, Nurmagomedov has gone on to actively promote himself as a viable option for Mayweather ever since.

Still, as dominant an MMA fighter as the undefeated Nurmagomedov is right now, the 31-year-old relies too heavily on grinding his opponents down to the mat via MMA wrestling to be considered a viable dance partner for Mayweather in a boxing ring.

Nurmagomedov might be undefeated inside the Octagon, but that’s certainly not because of his boxing skills. Mayweather-Khabib seems like a hard sell.

Besides, Nurmagomedov has yet to prove he’s a PPV draw all by himself without fighting McGregor.

BMF Champ Masvidal Also Wants Crossover Fight

Jorge Masvidal is an intriguing option but only because he’s coming off the finest year of his entire MMA career at the present.

Masvidal entered 2019 on a two-fight losing skid after sitting out all of 2018 in its entirety. But the 35-year-old picked up three important wins over the last nine months of 2019 to earn Fighter of the Year honors in many people’s minds.

Masvidal crushed Darren Till by second-round knockout in March, scored the fastest knockout in UFC history against Ben Askren in July, and earned a life-changing stoppage win against Nate Diaz in November for the UFC’s BMF title.

He followed that up by calling out undefeated boxing star Canelo Alvarez for his own crossover megafight and has also thrown his name in the mix to be McGregor’s next opponent.

But Masvidal’s recent history of success might not be enough just yet for him to land a shot against Mayweather, at least enough in the minds of the mainstream sports fans who would need to support the potential Mayweather-Masvidal PPV in droves with their purchasing power.

A 13-loss fighter taking on boxing’s 50-0 Mayweather?

That only works if Masvidal’s celebrity status continues to grow exponentially over the coming months, and that probably doesn’t happen unless Masvidal gets another big fight or two on the books soon.

Mayweather Motivated Almost Entirely by Money

Judging by all the types of things boxing historians enjoy measuring a fighter against, Mayweather is absolutely one of the most accomplished fighters in boxing history. He’s won world titles across five different weight classes, and he never lost a fight.

But where there’s a decent argument to be made under various historical data sets that several other fighters in boxing history, such as Joe Louis, Ray Robinson and Roberto Duran, probably accomplished greater feats than Mayweather did over the course of their careers, there’s no disputing that Mayweather is the highest-selling PPV fighter ever and that he’s made more money than just about any other boxer in history, too.

For his part, Mayweather seems to have prioritized his boxing career around making as much money as possible. That was an incredibly smart move, and it isn’t likely to change now that the boxer is older and passed his athletic prime.

In fact, probably the only reason he wants to stick around in a sport as tough as boxing at all is so that he can continue to maximize the amount of money he’ll have at his disposal for the rest of his life.

To that end, no UFC fighter comes anywhere close to McGregor in terms of helping Mayweather do that. The Irishman already combined with Mayweather for one huge blockbuster megafight in 2017, and there’s nobody else in the UFC at the present that could offer as much as McGregor could in the effort to do the same in 2020.

McGregor, after all, is MMA’s version of Mayweather, at least when it comes to box office success. Nobody in the history of the company has sold as many PPVs, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.

McGregor Must Avoid Upset Loss to Cerrone at UFC 246

Still, Mayweather-McGregor 2 is probably nothing more than a longshot at this point. But that longshot becomes a no shot if McGregor shockingly loses to Cerrone at UFC 246 on Jan. 18 in Las Vegas.

In fact, McGregor’s chances at getting any sort of huge megafight statistically go way down should he lose to Cerrone.

That’s not meant to be a knock against Cerrone. The 36-year-old American holds the UFC records for most wins, finishes and bonuses because he’s been one of the best contenders the company has to offer.

But he’s topped out there, and fighters who hadn’t won a UFC championship at this point in their careers usually never do.

So if McGregor ends up on the wrong side of a Cerrone punch or kick, the UFC’s biggest draw can surely kiss goodbye any chance he had to get Mayweather back inside a boxing ring. And it also wouldn’t help McGregor get the other types of fights he desires within the UFC either.

He’d have virtually no chance at securing a Nurmagomedov rematch. He’d be a hard sell against Masvidal. Heck, I’m not even sure he’d deserve an immediate opportunity against hard-hitting contender Justin Gaethje.

But a win at UFC 246 keeps all of McGregor’s dreams alive.

And his biggest dream?

One that even the UFC president seems to fancy?

Like it or not, that’s another crack at Mayweather.

READ NEXT: Six Reason Donald Cerrone is Conor McGregor’s Baddest Opponent Ever

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