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Conor McGregor’s performance vs. Floyd Mayweather was a win for MMA

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And it wasn’t a death knell for boxing, either.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. v Conor McGregor Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

There were so many questions going into Saturday’s fight between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor, and most of them had to do with how badly McGregor would lose. Many questioned whether or not the fight, which was seen as a farce, would hurt the sport of mixed martial arts.

Others wondered if boxing, already losing viewers to MMA, would take a big hit due to the sideshow nature of the contest.

Surprisingly, it looks like a win for both sides. McGregor’s performance in the early rounds against Mayweather was nothing short of incredible, even if Mayweather was never truly in danger of losing the bout. Mayweather is supposed to be a slow starter, and he was always expected to take over late.

But still — nobody saw the kind of performance that McGregor put up coming. He landed on Mayweather, and he landed hard. He flustered Mayweather and goaded him into a brawl, something very few fighters have been able to do. He landed more than his fair share of shots and arguably took the first three rounds by a healthy margin.

That wasn’t completely unexpected — McGregor taking those opening rounds — but the ferocity and intensity with which he took them can only be looked at as impressive.

This is Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’s the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, even outside of his prime and slower than he’s ever been. Striking in MMA has always been viewed as sloppy in comparison to “the sweet science.” Boxing in MMA is wild, unpredictable, and rarely resembles anything close to what you see in the sport of boxing.

And from McGregor, there were times it still didn’t resemble what is usually put forward in boxing during his fight with Mayweather. That’s what helped him through some of his early rounds. He took unique angles, and he hit Mayweather an awful lot. His movement training and wiggling arms were funny to laugh at, but they allowed him to find Mayweather’s chin.

For Mayweather, he stopped McGregor and put an exclamation point on the end of the fight. He looked slower than he has in years past, not like the most dominant fighter in the world, but he defied expectations of a boring fight and came out swinging after he found his rhythm.

McGregor deserves respect for his performance, and MMA fighters everywhere should benefit from that respect.

And if you tuned into the card and you happened to like the main event or the bouts on the undercard, you owe it to yourself to explore more of what boxing has to offer. It’s not a dying sport. It’s an institution, and there is always a big fight around the corner.

Canelo Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin will combine for what is the true biggest fight of the year on Sept. 16, and that’s a good place to start.