MMA the real winner in Floyd-Conor fight

MAYWEATHER IS UNBEATABLE: "The guy is 49-0 and not even Manny Pacquiao was able to beat him, I don't think Conor McGregor will be able to do it." - RAFAEL DOS ANJOS, Belgian welterweight fighter, backing Floyd Mayweather (above).
MAYWEATHER IS UNBEATABLE: "The guy is 49-0 and not even Manny Pacquiao was able to beat him, I don't think Conor McGregor will be able to do it." - RAFAEL DOS ANJOS, Belgian welterweight fighter, backing Floyd Mayweather (above).
MCGREGOR HAS A FIGHTING CHANCE: "Conor's advantage is that he has greater reach and he is more powerful than Mayweather." - LI JINGLIANG, Chinese MMA fighter, thinks Conor McGregor (above) has the edge.
MCGREGOR HAS A FIGHTING CHANCE: "Conor's advantage is that he has greater reach and he is more powerful than Mayweather." - LI JINGLIANG, Chinese MMA fighter, thinks Conor McGregor (above) has the edge.

Mixed martial arts stars divided on winner of superfight but see great benefit for their sport

As combat sports fans gear up for the Aug 26 blockbuster boxing match between mixed martial arts (MMA) star Conor McGregor and American boxer Floyd Mayweather, MMA fighters who are in town are divided over whether the Irishman can triumph.

News that the pair had agreed on the long-awaited showdown at 154 pounds (69kg) in Las Vegas, which is expected to be a pay-per-view jackpot, broke early yesterday in Singapore.

Both men are significant revenue generators in their respective sports. McGregor is the top pay-per-view draw in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) while Mayweather has featured in boxing's biggest bout, earning US$250 million (S$344.5 million) for his fight against Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao in 2015.

Belgian Tarec Saffiedine and Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos, who will fight each other for the welterweight title on the main card of UFC's Fight Night at the Singapore Indoor Stadium tomorrow, doubt McGregor can defeat his unbeaten rival.

Speaking at UFC's media event at Marina Bay Sands yesterday, dos Anjos said: "It's a different level and a different sport... The guy is 49-0 and not even Manny Pacquiao was able to beat him, I don't think Conor McGregor will be able to do it."

Saffiedine agreed, adding: "I hope (McGregor) has good training partners."

McGregor has a 21-3 win-loss record in MMA but has not fought in a boxing ring since he was a teenager, reported AFP.

But not all the fighters were as quick to write off the UFC lightweight champion's chances.

Korean welterweight veteran Dong Hyun Kim, 35, highlighted McGregor's "variety in skill and great strength" as reasons he thinks the 28-year-old will win.

Chinese welterweight fighter Li Jingliang, who will feature on the partial fight card tomorrow, also tipped the 1.75m McGregor to prevail.

"Conor's advantage is that he has greater reach and he is more powerful than Mayweather," he said. "From his UFC fights that I've seen, his boxing is very skilful as well."

The 40-year-old Mayweather, who retired in 2015, stands at 1.73m.

American Colby Covington, Dong's opponent, believes McGregor has youth on his side.

Regardless of the result, Covington, 29, feels the 12-round fight will benefit MMA, adding: "It's going to draw more attention to MMA, and there can only be good that will come out of it."

Dong and Li both believe the fight will demonstrate the versatility of MMA exponents, with the latter saying: "This is a very good opportunity to show an MMA fighter is a well-rounded fighter.

"They can win in MMA fights and also in boxing fights."

UFC's senior vice-president of international and content Joe Carr acknowledged the high-profile nature of the showdown, but said such a fight would likely be "more of an exception than the rule".

Referring to the McGregor-Mayweather agreement as a "perfect storm", he added: "It's a massive fight for combat sports that we're excited about and it's what all the fans have been clamouring for.

"It has the opportunity to be the biggest fight in combat sports history. This is a unique situation where you have the opportunity to do the biggest fight in history and it's hard to walk away from that.

"I don't think we're actively looking to do more boxing fights or cross-promotional fights."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2017, with the headline 'MMA the real winner in Floyd-Conor fight'. Print Edition | Subscribe