On August 26, 2018, UFC President Dana White announced that mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Conor McGregor would be stepping away from the sport he defined and made famous. In the wake of the announcement, McGregor’s star rose almost immediately, with many seeing him as a possible candidate for Sports Illustrated’s ‘Sportsman of the Year’ award. Amidst the media attention, many bettors turned their attention to the upcoming bout between McGregor and boxing great, Floyd Mayweather. Could the bout between these two iconic athletes be the make or break point for many sportsbooks, or is this just another example of an ‘also-ran’ contest being used to juice line action? Let’s take a closer look at the action and see if we can dig up some value for our readers.
The Odds & The Opening Line
In early August, prior to McGregor’s big announcement, sportsbooks had already set the line for the August 26 showdown at +350 in favor of McGregor. At another reputable sportsbook, Bovada, the line moved back to +400, giving McGregor the slight edge in the pre-game odds. It should come as no surprise that McGregor is a popular choice among sports bettors given his eclectic skill set and success in multiple sports, including boxing, UFC fights, and horse racing. Prior to the announcement of the August 26 fight, McGregor’s odds stood at +350 to win, +750 to place, and +1250 to show. According to OddsShark, a popular betting site, odds for Mayweather vs McGregor are currently at +600 in favor of ‘Money’ Mayweather.
Analyzing The Sportsbook’s Edge
OddsShark explains that since the odds are so heavily in favor of Mayweather, sportsbooks have a decided advantage when it comes to pricing their merchandise (e.g. tickets, food, etc.). In general, if McGregor is seen as a threat to Mayweather’s dominance in boxing, then the betting public will likely pay a little more for the privilege of betting on the bout. Conversely, if McGregor is seen as a pushover, then the price will likely come way down. With so much money to be made or lost on the outcome of the big fight, sportsbooks will do everything in their power to make sure McGregor is seen as a threat. Unfortunately for bettors looking to wade into the fray, due to the immense popularity of these two superstitions, finding an accurate line is often difficult. The key to finding value is in the analysis of the sportsbook’s edge, or the difference in price between oddsmaker and bookmaker. While analyzing McGregor’s odds, it is important to keep in mind that they are adjusted for inflation. So, even though the odds may seem incredible, pay close attention to the juice that is attached to them.
Why Are The Odds So High?
Let’s begin by looking at the current status of McGregor’s professional boxing career, which dates back to 2014. In that year, McGregor won the Professional Fighters Association (PFA) title, becoming the youngest ever champion of the organization at just 23 years of age. He went on to win the World Boxing Association (WBA) light heavyweight title in his next bout, making him the first ever dual belt champion (PFA and WBA). McGregor is currently in the process of defending his WBA title against former champion Jorge Leducuau in another highly-anticipated bout this coming Saturday night (August 26). If he defeats Leducuau, he will become the first ever triple belt champion.
Mayweather, on the other hand, is viewed by many as the best boxer of all time. He is currently on a 12-fight unbeaten streak, which includes victories over some of the greatest boxers of all time. Most recently, he became only the second boxer in history to simultaneously hold versions of the WBA, WBC, and IBF heavyweight titles. If McGregor is seen as a threat to Mayweather’s legacy, then the public will likely pay a premium for the right to bet on the fight. However, if Mayweather is seen as an easy target, then the price will likely drop dramatically.
What About The MMA Fights?
If we compare McGregor’s boxing to his mixed martial arts (MMA) fighting career, it is quite evident that the sportsmanship of the sport is far more developed. In fact, McGregor is undefeated in his MMA career, holding a record of 27-0. His only professional defeat came at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov in an extraordinary upset. The Russian combatant outpointed McGregor on the scorecards, despite the Irishman scoring first. Nevertheless, McGregor went on to have a highly successful amateur career, becoming a three-time All Ireland champion.
The undefeated record of McGregor in MMA is a testament to his excellence in wrestling, stand-up striking, and ground-and-pound. Many consider McGregor to be the best wrestler and grappler in the sport’s history. In fact, he is rated as the No. 3 overall pound-for-pound fighter in the world by ProMMA.com, and the No. 1 middleweight, as well as No. 2 overall light heavyweight fighter in the world. Moreover, McGregor’s strength and wrestling make him a nightmare for opponents in both the standing and ground-and-pound positions. This coupled with his elite speed has made him a lethal knockout artist, able to stop opponents with one punch.
One of the reasons why McGregor is so highly-touted is because of the variety of matchups he presents. A self-proclaimed ‘notorious brawler,’ McGregor has the unique ability to take on anyone in any given match, providing he can get past their defenses. In fact, many consider his style to be a perfect hybrid of boxing and MMA, with his unpredictability and high knockout ratio making him a dangerous foe for any fighter. This is one of the reasons why many regard McGregor as a legitimate threat to Mayweather’s supremacy, as he can draw from his mixed martial arts career, while also employing his star power and social media following to drive interest in the bout.
A Possible Brexit Influence?
Another possible reason behind the high odds for Mayweather vs. McGregor has to do with the recent success of UK based bookmaker Paddy Power in the esports betting world. The company is now the exclusive sponsor of UK soccer team Liverpool, and is the second largest sponsor of the prestigious English Premier League. Paddy Power also sponsors the annual Ryder Cup, supporting golfers from both the U.S. and Europe.
In mid-2018, Paddy Power expanded into the sports betting world, with the acquisition of the rights to present odds and market live sports betting in the UK. Prior to this, UK betting houses had to partner with overseas bookmakers to broker horse racing and football matches. By purchasing these exclusive rights, Paddy Power is now allowed to set lines and take bets on an array of pro and amateur sporting events, including NFL, NHL, and Premier League soccer.
Last but not least, it should be noted that both Mayweather and McGregor are exceptionally skilled at marketing themselves and their fights. Although they are far from being the first celebrities to enter combat sports, they are certainly among the best marketing moguls in the industry. Both men understand the power of social media, and they each have a large and engaged social media following. This is an important tool for connecting with potential fans, while also generating buzz and interest in their upcoming fights.