The sports world will probably end up having some fun at Conor McGregor's expense Aug. 26.
If the betting odds, historical precedent and nearly every fight analyst alive are correct, McGregor's quest to box Floyd Mayweather Jr. won't end well for the plucky mixed martial artist. The overwhelming likelihood is that McGregor gets pieced-up badly by the greatest boxer of his generation that Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
In an age where fans watch sports as much to live-tweet snarky comments as bask in the athletic greatness, it's also easy to imagine McGregor as the butt of a few (thousand) internet memes. The sheer size of the media circus around this bout demands it.
But while popular culture crowds around to point and laugh at the reigning UFC lightweight champion's folly, it's useful to remember one thing: Mayweather will win this boxing match, but McGregor would dominate him in nearly any other kind of fight.
In fact, holding this bout under strict Marquess of Queensberry rules is Mayweather's only chance to win.
If it were an MMA match? McGregor obviously takes that.
A kickboxing fight? McGregor wins that, too.
A grappling match? McGregor.
"That would be suicide for Floyd Mayweather Jr. [...]," former WBO super-middleweight boxing champion Chris Eubank told Joe.co.uk's Darragh Murphy recently. "You're fit for boxing, you're not fit for mixed martial arts or street fights or no-holds-barred fights. Conor McGregor would destroy him. There's no discussion with that."
The Notorious One has spent the last nine years compiling a professional MMA record of 21-3. In November 2016, he became the first fighter ever to simultaneously hold two championships in two different UFC weight classes after he jumped from 145 to 155 pounds and knocked out then-champ Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205.
While ascending to the upper echelon of MMA, McGregor has cultivated an overall skill set far more diverse and nuanced than the one Mayweather uses to win his boxing matches.
While primarily known as a heavy-handed southpaw striker, McGregor is also a brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under coach John Kavanagh. In order go to 9-1 in UFC competition since 2013, he's had to defeat a set of opponents that included NCAA All-American wrestler Chad Mendes, decorated kickboxer Dennis Siver, and BJJ black belts Diego Brandao and Jose Aldo (though, admittedly, the latter took only 13 seconds).
McGregor's only slip-up in the UFC to date was a submission loss to Nate Diaz in a welterweight fight in March 2016, but he battled back to defeat Diaz in their rematch by majority decision less than six months later.
Any contest that allowed for more than just pure boxing would let McGregor turn those skills loose on Mayweather, who has none of the same diversity in his arsenal. McGregor could easily take him to the ground and submit him if he chose, or he could use his vaunted kicking game to stay out of punching range and punish Mayweather to the legs, body and head.
"That thing would be over real quick [...]," UFC President Dana White told Jimmy Kimmel during a recent TV appearance, about how an MMA fight between Mayweather and McGregor would go. "Floyd would take a couple of leg kicks, and that would be the end of that."
By McGregor's own estimation, it would take him "less than 30 seconds to wrap around [Mayweather] like a boa constrictor and strangle him," as he told Esquire's Chris Jones back in April 2015.
So, as Mayweather blows the Irishman out of the water inside the squared circle later this month, it will be instructive to remember that McGregor will always be the better all-around fighter.
"What you're doing is you're putting Conor McGregor into a situation where he's holding back nine-tenths of his arsenal [...]" former professional boxer and current MMA fighter Heather Hardy said, according to Business Insider's Scott Davis. "If both of those guys got in a fight on the street, McGregor would whup his ass."
Why, then, would the 29-year-old Dublin native thrust himself into certain destruction, facing Mayweather in the only kind of bout where the recently retired 40-year-old pugilist has every advantage?
Partly, it's because Mayweather calls the shots here. It's also because—as White likes to say—McGregor is just a wild man.
Mostly, though, it's all about the money.
The economics of combat sports dictate that boxing Mayweather is the only way for McGregor to set his family up for generations to come.
In MMA, where McGregor is unquestionably the biggest star, athletes earn far less than top-of-the-food-chain boxers. Even as the UFC's highest-paid athlete, McGregor banked just $3 million in reported base salary for his rematch with Diaz at UFC 202—and that fight became the UFC's biggest seller of all time on pay-per-view.
Compare that with Mayweather, who made over $220 million to fight Manny Pacquiao in 2015, and it becomes apparent why McGregor would want to strap on a pair of boxing gloves and sign up for a sure-fire beating.
McGregor may make $75-100 million for his trouble, per Forbes' Brian Mazique, and that could convince anyone that a punches-only bout against one of the greatest of all time is a good idea.
"[I'm] about to quadruple my net worth with half a fight," McGregor said during the last stop on the promotional world tour he did alongside Mayweather last month. "I'm in shock every single day I wake up. Half a fight, I get to quadruple my net worth for half a f--king fight. Sign me up."
McGregor could never do that fighting exclusively in MMA—where it is believed promoters keep the largest portion of the profits. A 2015 report by Bloody Elbow's John S. Nash estimated that UFC athletes are paid somewhere between 13 and 16 percent of total revenue, while the fight company pockets most of the rest.
McGregor may have single-handedly boosted those percentages in recent years after participating in four of the promotion's top five all-time biggest PPVs. But as long as that estimated 85-15 split exists, it will be impossible for an MMA athlete to make Mayweather money.
Throughout his meteoric rise to the top of mixed-rules fighting, McGregor has been nothing if not money-conscious. Besides his Mack truck left hand and Hall of Fame gift of gab, it's his defining characteristic.
You can't blame him for looking around the fight-sports landscape for the most lucrative opportunity. It's just that to make it happen, he had to enter this classic Faustian bargain—get beat up playing Mayweather's game but become filthy rich in the process.
The rub for McGregor is that the irony may be lost on many casual fans. The fighter should be applauded for having the guts to cross over into boxing and take on one of the best in the world, but it doesn't seem likely that will be the overwhelming response to this fight.
Before we all get swept up in the hysteria, just keep repeating it quietly to yourself: Conor McGregor would beat Floyd Mayweather in any kind of fight…except the one the that two men will actually compete.
Then try to remember that as you're Photoshopping Crying Jordan Face over McGregor's gorilla chest tattoo.