Should he or shouldn't he?
The UFC's biggest superstar, Conor McGregor, just pocketed $30 million for one night of work as a professional boxer.
Taking home at least 10 times what he's ever made in a UFC fight by switching over to boxing begs the question for Team McGregor: Should Conor ditch MMA for boxing?
What He Learned in The Fight
Make no mistake: The novice professional boxer needs to shore up his game in a few particular areas if he hopes to compete against elite fighters and continue to rake in millions.
McGregor most assuredly learned valuable lessons facing the top fighter of a generation. Mayweather's Round 10 knockout win over McGregor highlighted the areas McGregor should focus on moving forward.
First, McGregor had no hope on Saturday of landing any significant punches when fighting on the inside. He lacks the natural intuition a pure inside fighter possesses, and while he'd need to augment his skillful counterpunching with some kind of inside game, it'd probably be best for him at this late age to focus on keeping his opponents at the end of his long punches.
It's been done before. Recently retired longtime heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko enjoyed one of the better careers in heavyweight history after he ditched his inside efforts for a long-distance technique.
McGregor could easily follow suit. Like Klitschko, McGregor possesses an excellent jab to go along with tremendous power in his other fist. Many a fighter has made a career out of the jab-cross combo and McGregor has the tools to do it, too.
Second, many were surprised at the lack of pop on McGregor's punches, especially after the first couple of rounds. While conditioning was probably a factor, McGregor's lack of zip probably had more to do with balance and stance than anything else.
Boxers and MMA fighters fight out of different stances with different techniques and footwork. While an MMA fighter has to be prepared for knees, elbows, tackles and kicks, a boxer is free to focus his defense on just his opponent's fists.
McGregor is a world-class puncher by any standard. How many times have we seen the boisterous knockout artist drop an opponent while moving backwards? Only a born puncher like McGregor can do something like that.
But against Mayweather, McGregor just seemed to be out of his element. He couldn't plant his feet well enough to drive through his punches using his legs, and for some reason, he was hesitant through much of the fight to put full force behind his punches.
To be an elite boxer, McGregor would need to find a top-notch boxing trainer to shore up his footwork and balance—someone who could teach him the subtle nuance he lacked against Mayweather.
The next area of concern for McGregor was his lack of conditioning. He appeared noticeably tired after Round 3, and by Rounds 9 and 10, McGregor could hardly hold himself up.
That just won't work.
McGregor would be wise to hire a boxing-oriented strength and conditioning coach before his next 12-round fight. He was woefully underprepared to fight 12 three-minute boxing rounds on Saturday, so at least adding someone to his current team who understands the rigors of the sweet science would be well-advised.
What He Learned From His Paycheck
Elite boxers make as much as or more than any other professional athlete in the world. There are no salary caps and no teammates with which they must share revenue. Boxers enjoy the status of being the attraction of the sporting event.
The fighter is the team. McGregor is already one of the most popular fighting teams in the sport right now.
Given the difference between boxing and the UFC's payment structures, McGregor has every reason to believe he could make a successful transition over to the business of boxing. As a professional boxer, McGregor would be able to negotiate for a larger portion of fight revenues than can under the current UFC umbrella. Seven-figure paydays are common in the sport of boxing for main-event fighters, especially those fighting on premier cable destinations like HBO and Showtime. Meanwhile, it has been a rare occurrence for UFC fighters. In fact, according to CBSSports.com's Brandon Wise, only five UFC fighters in history have ever earned purses over $1 million.
Ditching the UFC and attaching himself to a boxing promoter like Mayweather Promotions or Top Rank would truly give McGregor the bargaining power he has thus far lacked with Dana White and Co.
A certain A-side against any other boxer in the sport, McGregor could call his own shots and make his own mark on the fighting world in any way that suits him.
Being already established as one of the historically great and immensely popular MMA stars, McGregor's move into boxing could garner him a further foothold as a household name. He could simultaneously hold the title of most popular fighter in two different sports markets: MMA and boxing. Should that occur, who knows what kind of sponsorship opportunities McGregor could land moving forward?
And the $30 million McGregor just made versus Mayweather is only the beginning. That number should skyrocket after the final pay-per-view numbers come in from last weekend, potentially tripling McGregor's earnings toward $90 million.
How exactly is McGregor supposed to go back to making comparative peanuts as a UFC fighter? If White hopes to keep McGregor around as a fighter on his roster, he better be ready to pony up more dough than ever before. Even that might not be enough.
Potential Big-Money Bouts
Bleacher Report's Lyle Fitzsimmons suggested several noteworthy crossover options for McGregor, should he continue boxing. The No. 1 fight on the list would be an easy sell PPV bout against former sparring partner Paulie Malignaggi. The two men's bad blood spilled over into the promotion of Mayweather-McGregor, so they already have a leg up in selling the fight.
A former world champion, Malignaggi is long past his best days as a professional fighter and would probably net McGregor a payday purse a few times greater than what he earns in the UFC.
Moreover, the light-hitting Malignaggi would be a fair testing ground for McGregor as a boxer. Should he win, which he'd likely be favored to do, exponentially bigger fights with huge paydays would reveal themselves on down the line.
The most intriguing names include Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, Gennady Golovkin and Manny Pacquiao. Even secondary opponents like former middleweight champion "Irish" Andy Lee and current junior welterweight titleholders Jermell Charlo and Erislandy Lara would do big numbers with McGregor.
McGregor would be wise to at least ponder the move from MMA to boxing. He is 29 years old and the clock for a successful transition is ticking loudly.
Tick-tock, Conor. It's time to choose.
With Mayweather now allegedly retired and McGregor's good-enough debut in the can, the boxing PPV throne is vacant and ripe for the taking.