Conor McGregor will return to the MMA, after a 23-month hiatus from the Octagon, when he takes on Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 on October 6th. There is, as ever, much baggage surrounding the Irish fighter, but there is also a feeling that he cannot escape the shadow of his short-lived boxing career.
There have been countless column inches dedicated to Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather’s boxing match last year, so there is no point in going over ground that has been covered before. However, when speaking of McGregor making his return to the Octagon next month, it is difficult not to at least reference the much-derided bout against Mayweather last August.
Boxing training could help McGregor
McGregor, of course, was outclassed and chastened by Mayweather, so it’s hard for fans of the Irishman to take much in the way of positives from the fight. But, there is an argument that McGregor could have gained a lot from the training for the Mayweather fight, enough perhaps to help him beat the odds on his UFC return next month.
It’s important to make the distinction between a great boxer and a great MMA striker. McGregor belongs in the latter category and, of course, is nowhere near the former. But, you must appreciate that the Irishman has been arguably the UFC’s best pure striker, especially with his left, over the last few years. Training to fight a man considered by many to be the best defensive boxer in history will have helped polish McGregor’s best weapon.
Khabib incredibly tough opponent
Indeed, McGregor’s striking coach, Owen Roddy, has suggested that fighting Mayweather, as well as all the training that came with it will help his charge be even more dominant when he returns to the Octagon. Rather than hinder him, as a near two-year absence would any fighter, the fact that he has focused on improving his best offensive tools could truly help the Irishman.
Why is all of this important? Well, it’s due to the fact that McGregor is not making his return to UFC with an exhibition fight against an unworthy opponent. Nurmagomedov is widely seen as the next big thing in MMA, holding the record for the longest unbeaten streak in the sport with 26 consecutive wins. He is capable of taking the mantle of being UFC’ biggest star from McGregor’s shoulder.
Russian leading the UFC betting odds
In fact, Khabib is a big favourite in the betting, coming in at odds of 5/8 with Bet365. McGregor is priced at 13/10 to win, but he is used to being the underdog, even in his natural home of UFC. For fans, this fight is a big deal, so there are plenty of Khabib vs McGregor betting offers from top bookies available. Punters, however, should be looking beyond the straight win markets and focusing on TKO/KOs, both fighters are odds against (Khabib 11/10, McGregor 17/10, Bet365) to win within the distance by any means. Either is a tempting bet when you consider each man’s fighting style. It’s just 2/7 to end early, so betting on a KO winner makes perfect sense.
Let’s face it: McGregor is not truly respected in boxing circles, with many seeing him as a charlatan who somehow managed to wrangle his way to getting one of the biggest purses in history. However, one should not doubt his bravery. There have been countless examples, including going up to Welterweight to fight Nate Diaz, where he has not shirked a big fight. He could have picked an easier opponent than Khabib. In fact, anyone in UFC would be an easier prospect than the Russian.
But, he will make his return on the 6th October and once again fight against the odds. The question is whether or not his absence will have hindered him. If he does succeed, then those countless hours of training for the Mayweather bout will surely have played their part. A McGregor KO win on strikes (given odds of just under 2/1), and the ‘notorious’ Dubliner might just be raising a pint of Guinness in honour of Mayweather after all.