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Great unknown looms over McGregor-Mayweather mega-fight

What if Conor McGregor, who will be making his professional debut, actually finds a way to beat all-time boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr. when they meet in Las Vegas on Aug. 26?

It’s an unlikely proposition according to most oddsmakers, yet that hasn’t stopped bettors from lining up to take the underdog in what promises to be one of the biggest fights in history, both in terms of revenue generated and money wagered.

Money has already come in on the inexperienced underdog. The Westgate Las Vegas sports book opened Mayweather as a minus-2500 favorite in February with McGregor bettors fetching a plus-1100 return on their investment.

A sampling of oddsmakers indicates the true line for the fight should have Mayweather as an even bigger favorite. It’s difficult to post such a number, however, because all of the underdog action would leave a sports book exposed too much to a fluke result.

According to Westgate sports book manager Jeff Sherman, steady support for McGregor at the opening number as it was drove the price as low as minus-800, with McGregor at plus-550.

Some large bets at the property, including a $50,000 wager on Mayweather have pushed the number back to minus-1100 and plus-700 at Westgate. The Golden Nugget sports book plans to post the fight at Mayweather minus-1200 and McGregor plus-800 on Thursday morning.

“When we first posted the line, we figured to get many tickets of the smaller variety, but larger than expected showed up,” Sherman said. “We also expected the real heavy Mayweather money to surface once the fight became official as it is more difficult to find those who would tie up large sums for something that might not occur. We now anticipate ticket count to be extremely one-sided to McGregor at the large plus price, but the larger money wagered on Mayweather.”

That is to be expected for money-line wagers involving sizeable favorites Bettors love making a big score without risking much and McGregor provides just that type of opportunity.

Those backing him at the window hope he has a puncher’s chance. It’s a narrative the promoters were already selling just minutes after officially announcing the fight on Wednesday.

“I talked to Conor this morning and he’s 100 percent beyond excited,” UFC president Dana White said of his organization’s lightweight champion, who has never boxed professionally. “He’s the kind of guy who believes in himself. I stopped doubting Conor a long time ago.”

Still, there’s a difference between calling your shot several times on your way to winning belts in two weight divisions in the sport in which you have been training for many years and trying to challenge perhaps the greatest boxer of all-time in your first foray into his discipline.

White still says McGregor’s chances shouldn’t be doubted.

“Floyd’s 40 and hasn’t fought in almost (two) years,” White said. “He traditionally doesn’t do well against southpaws. He’s undefeated, but if you want to look at the kink in the armor, you look at southpaws. Conor is a southpaw. He’s 27 and he’s a knockout artist. All the guys that thought Conor couldn’t hurt them, every time he touches guys, they fall. The question is, can he touch Floyd Mayweather? In a 12-round fight, can he get in and connect? Anything is possible when two guys get in an octagon or a ring and start throwing punches.

“So we’ll see.”

Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe insists his fighter is taking McGregor seriously.

“One thing I’ve been very impressed with is his hands,” Ellerbe said of McGregor. “He’s a very slick guy. When he throws, shots don’t look hard. But the impact that they have, it’s like, ‘Damn, he’s clipping guys like that?’ I can honestly say I’m a fan.”

Of course, those guys are in charge of selling the fight for what figures to be a massive price tag both at the box office and on pay-per-view.

The truth remains Mayweather is one of the most accomplished boxers in history and McGregor had some flaws in his standup game exposed Nate Diaz. He has also shown signs of fatigue in 25-minute MMA fights and must now prepare for one of the best conditioned athletes in the world in a bout that is scheduled for 36 minutes.

But what if?

White believes McGregor finding a way to end one of boxing’s greatest unbeaten streaks will change sports history.

“If Conor knocks Floyd Mayweather out, he’s the biggest athlete on earth,” White said. “He’s the biggest athlete even on other planets. It’s crazy to think about.”

It was once thought insane to even consider the fight might happen.

More MMA: See more of our MMA and UFC coverage online at CoveringTheCage.com and @CoveringTheCage on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLRVJ on Twitter.

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