Mayweather McGregor Boxing

Floyd Mayweather Jr., left, fights Conor McGregor in a super welterweight boxing match Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

Isaac Brekken

Conor McGregor didn't stand a chance. He would get knocked out early. He wouldn't land a punch. 

That's what the pundits were saying about McGregor's fight against Floyd Mayweather, arguably one of the greatest boxers ever. They didn't believe the Irish mixed martial artist had the skills to take on Mayweather, a former champion in five weight classes who retired in 2015 with a 49-0 career record. 

Mayweather won the fight Saturday. He weathered McGregor's storm in the early rounds before taking control of the fight. He finished McGregor with an aggressive flurry in the 10th round that led referee Robert Byrd to stop the fight. 

On paper, it was a loss for McGregor. But he'll leave Las Vegas a winner. 

Boxing purists didn't give McGregor much credit. He has ruled over the MMA universe with an iron (left) fist and became the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes simultaneously. But many didn't see his skills crossing over to the boxing world — one where grappling, kicks and submission moves aren't allowed. 

Regardless, boxing is striking and that's McGregor's best skill in MMA. He's not going to lull you to sleep with his grappling or try to choke you out on the ground. He's aiming to knock your head off. That's why the boxing purists shouldn't have counted him out of his fight against Mayweather. 

McGregor poured it on early. While the judges saw the fight differently, you could argue he won the first three rounds. For the "he won't land a punch" crowd, that was probably a bit surprising. McGregor proved that this wasn't just some freak show. He could stand toe-to-toe with Mayweather, a boxing legend. 

Those who don't follow MMA regularly also glossed over some of McGregor's best traits. One of his best attributes is not being afraid of failure. When he lost to Nate Diaz last year, he took it in stride. He went to work, got better and beat Diaz in an epic rematch. 

With the Mayweather fight, the pay day — he could wind up making $100 million or more — was a lure. But it was more about the challenge of taking on the boxing great. Mayweather has been the best boxing has had to offer for years. McGregor is the best in MMA. If the two worlds were going to collide, it needed to be these two standing in the same ring. And instead of demanding a fight inside the UFC octagon, he didn't think twice about entering the boxing ring, Mayweather's domain. 

It was a gutsy move, but that's what McGregor is all about. He's willing to take risks. A lot of MMA fighters would love that pay day. But how many would actually do it? How many would go outside of their comfort zone to take on a boxer, let alone one of the greatest of all time? In that regard, McGregor is in a class of his own. 

The consensus after Saturday night's fight was that McGregor shined. He may have lost the fight, but he won over at least some of his detractors. The group that called this a freak show realized that he's legit. Does that mean he'll dominate boxing? Probably not. But he did more against Mayweather than most pro boxers, including Manny Pacquiao. 

McGregor has enjoyed a lot of success in the fight game and his future is bright. His next step is unknown. He isn't ruling out a return to boxing. He's the current UFC lightweight champion and his next MMA bout could involve a title defense. He also mentioned a trilogy fight against Nate Diaz. 

There are many opportunities for McGregor. And if there's one takeaway from Saturday it's that he's willing to walk through any door in front of him. He doesn't shy away from a challenge. He embraces it. That's why he wins, even in defeat. 

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