In this edition of his weekly column, “The Ticket," Adam Kramer explores Conor McGregor’s MMA future heading into UFC 264, previews the NBA Finals and dives head-first into the Shohei Ohtani madness. He also makes his pick for the massive UFC card.
No matter what happens on Saturday night, Conor McGregor will be fine. Of course he will be. His whiskey. His charisma. His ability to command an audience. All of it has and will continue to thrive outside the octagon whether he conquers Dustin Poirier in their trilogy at UFC 264 or not.
McGregor is in a new stratosphere of wealth these days — a stratosphere well beyond the kind of payday he will earn this weekend when he headlines yet another main event.
Which begs the question on the minds of many MMA fans: What does the future hold for the face of the sport?
The immediate future is simple. On Saturday, McGregor will (likely) face Poirier as an underdog for only the second time in his last 16 fights. This excludes, of course, his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.
Given what we witnessed at UFC 257, this makes sense. Poirier’s calf kicks ultimately proved to be too much for McGregor, who fell as a sizable chalk. This time around, Poirier is the favorite — albeit a small one.
If McGregor wins, he’ll be instantly thrown into the lightweight title picture. UFC would prefer this outcome, in case you were curious. But if he loses, one can’t help but wonder what the future might hold.
A fallback that would be mighty appealing is another fight with Nate Diaz. It doesn’t matter what they’re fighting for or where they’re fighting — this would be a massive UFC event if they were paired up once more. Diaz, even in defeat against Leon Edwards, was once again the star of the show.
If that’s a backup plan for McGregor, what a glorious backup plan it will be. Not just for those two, but all of us.
Another backup could be even more lucrative. McGregor could go the route of the Paul brothers and jump back into the boxing craze — a fad he helped shape. Heck, maybe he’ll even fight a Paul. If and when he decides to go back into this ring, the financial possibilities should be massive.
At 32, McGregor could do anything. He is young enough to ride out his UFC career for as long as he wishes. He is famous enough to dabble in other sports. He is rich enough to do nothing, as well, if he so chooses.
He will be a draw, even if he’s no longer dominant, in whatever he does. So long as he wants to be.
But from a title standpoint, Saturday is significant. If you enjoy watching McGregor in MMA, this feels like a moment. Of course, a loss doesn’t mean things will suddenly end, but this does feel like a crossroads for a fighter trying to see how they measure up.
Plus, with a net worth that is suddenly surging, how much longer will McGregor decide he wants his legs kicked and his face punched?
The outcome on Saturday could certainly shift the conversation.
Last Week’s Gambling Report Card: Back from Vegas
I did well. While I went light on sports betting last week, slots were kind to me. The table games I did play were largely “meh,” but I left Las Vegas a winner.
Also, I did check out the all-new Resorts World on the Vegas strip a few days after it opened. While I did not stay there, I can deliver a few thoughts.
The sheer size of the casino floor is absolutely wild. It’s almost like you’re standing inside a state-of-the-art football stadium. The bars where we drank were all vastly different from each other and all quite nice. But the sportsbook — at least, the one I ventured into — was attached to a bar (Dawg House Saloon) and actually quite small.
I’m not sure that will be the case forever, but the book I saw was not worth the time — at least from a watching/drinking standpoint. The casino, however, is quite magnificent.
What I’m Watching: UFC 264, NBA Finals and Midseason MLB
It’s not just McGregor-Poirier. This is a card with tremendous depth. The co-main event between Gilbert Burns and Stephen Thompson is electric. And every time Sean O’Malley fights — regardless of opponent — you should watch. Greg Hardy is back in action and a small dog against the powerful Tai Tuivasa, which will serve as the heavyweight portion of the main card. And as for females, Irene Aldana and Yana Kunitskaya should deliver in a match with relatively even odds. You know the drill — all the way in.
2021 NBA Finals
Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks. I, for one, am thrilled about the matchup. I only wish we had more clarity on the health of Giannis Antetokounmpo. I’m sure the oddsmakers did as well. As is, it feels like a tall order for Milwaukee for this reason. That said, we saw a game effort from the Bucks against the Atlanta Hawks, even without its star. I think Phoenix just might have more talent and depth — a factor normally countered by more talent and depth. In any event, don’t let anyone lecture you about markets or interest. This should be a wonderful series.
I’d like to think that we have a better feel for teams and divisions come the All-Star break, and we are about there. This is normally the time of the season that I sink deeper into teams and talent and stats a little deeper. I, like the rest of the baseball universe, will also be fixated on what Shohei Ohtani does moving forward. Each at-bat is a moment in itself — a place in time where greatness is more or less expected. Regardless of where you stand with your betting futures as it pertains to the Los Angeles Angels or Ohtani, every moment is a must-see.
What I’m Betting: UFC 264 Betting Guide
Let us dive head-first into this glorious card with picks. (Side note: I will be back in Vegas once again this weekend and perhaps live and in-person for this card.)
Odds courtesy of PointsBet.
Conor McGregor (+104) defeats Dustin Poirier
Wager: 1 unit
Has McGregor figured out how to manage those leg kicks? That’s the question. If he has, I think he has a great chance to win. If he hasn’t — and he doesn’t hurt Poirier early — the fight will likely go the same way. This is a fascinating fight and a great betting opportunity. I’ll stick with McGregor, but this isn’t easy.
Stephen Thompson (-160) defeats Gilbert Burns
I believe Thompson’s unique style will give Burns fits, as it has with many fighters.
Tai Tuivasa (-130) defeats Greg Hardy
Hardy is so powerful that this fight could end any moment. But Tuivasa is no slouch in this department and also far more technical.
Jennifer Maya (-195) defeats Jessica Eye
The odds aren’t great, but I think Maya could be dominant in this fight.
Carlos Condit (+150) defeats Max Griffin
Great value on a tough fighter on a two-fight win streak.