In August of last year, Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor combined to do the unthinkable – a crossover bout between the biggest name in the sport of boxing and the rising global superstar of MMA.
With the bout taking place in the boxing ring and under Queensberry Rules, the 40-year-old Mayweather was predictably able to pick the younger, larger McGregor apart en-route to a tenth-round stoppage, with hindsight suggesting the result was never in doubt and that the entire charade had been a money-spinning sham.
A rematch in the UFC Octagon has been heavily discussed since but McGregor instead opted to return to familiar pastures and one week ago – on his MMA return – the Irishman was submitted by unbeaten Russian wrestling machine Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Enough to put talk of boxer vs. martial artist to rest? Well not quite. In the aftermath of his victory, Khabib has now taken his chance to call out boxing’s money man:
“Let’s go, Floyd. We have to fight now. 50-0 vs 27-0, two guys who never lose, why not? Because in the jungle there is only one king. Of course I am the king because he could not drop McGregor and I dropped him easily,” Nurmagomedov said in a post on Mayweather advisor Leonard Ellerbe’s Instagram.
Mayweather is currently rumoured to be lining up for a December rematch with Manny Pacquiao and is currently a 2-5 favourite across Mayweather Pacquiao betting sites to beat his great rival for a second time, whilst punters can get 15-8 on Pacquiao being named winner at bookmaker Betfred. The draw is available at 25-1 at bookies William Hill and Ladbrokes.
After the sour reaction to their underwhelming first bout and the intrigue of the general public being what it is, a Mayweather vs Khabib encounter may be the fight that currently generates the most interest, and therefore ultimately the most income.
Bookies are already advertising odds for this crossover bout, with Betfair offering 1-25 on Mayweather being victorious. Khabib is available at 17-2 at Ladbrokes whilst the draw is a huge 50-1 which may well be worth a few pennies.
Khabib is news right now and Pacquiao’s star has dwindled somewhat since he lost to Mayweather in 2015. While boxing aficionados and martial arts experts may convulse at the thought of Floyd toying with another high-profile MMA star in a boxing ring, the fact is that in the social media age, novelty, even obscenity, sells.
After Mayweather vs Pacquiao finally settled their score three-and-a-half years ago, the biggest selling combat sports event in the time since has been Mayweather’s bout with McGregor, which sold 4.3 million pay-per-view buys, while a further 3 million reportedly watched the fight on illegal streams.
With the average audience for mainstream boxing events falling in recent times and MMA still a relatively niche endeavour, perhaps crossover bouts now hold the future for big-money fights in combat sports?