By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Conor McGregor has already won.
Even if the loquacious Irishman takes the one-sided beating that most expect him to receive from Floyd Mayweather in the boxing spectacle of the summer, the UFC champion has earned life-changing wealth simply by getting into the Vegas ring. Getting knocked out wouldn't change that the most famous man in mixed martial arts would still have an unprecedented perch as a powerful player in two combat sports.
UFC President Dana White puts it succinctly: "Conor can do whatever Conor wants to do with his life after this. Everything is possible. He's the unicorn."
McGregor seems constantly mindful of the enormity of what he has achieved simply by making this showdown happen, and it fills him with glee. With no competitive boxing experience since adolescence, McGregor managed to talk his way into a pay-per-view fight with Mayweather, the unbeaten champion in the final bout of a perfect 21-year career.
A fight that started as a barstool argument and turned into a social media phenomenon has improbably evolved into a real, actual sporting event that will create untold millions in wealth, much of it going into the fighters' pockets. There's no telling just how much it will be yet, but McGregor is widely expected to make between $75 million and $150 million, depending on pay-per-view sales.
"It's absolutely amazing to be involved in it," said McGregor, whose cocky public veneer often gets lowered in private. "I'm very grateful. The city of Las Vegas is going to benefit massively from it, as is (Mayweather). Everyone involved, we're all living good. Life is so good, and I'm grateful."
Sure, an embarrassing loss would hurt McGregor's pride, and a brutal knockout could be physically damaging. The enormity of the challenge he's facing appeared to be on his mind during a subdued performance at the final news conference Wednesday.
But if he loses, he'll have plenty of time for healing and strategizing on his new 100-foot yacht in Ibiza starting next week.
"I'm already at that Forever Money stage," McGregor said. "The fact of the matter is I don't have to worry about money. My focus is simply on using this opportunity to its fullest and demonstrating my skills to the world."
Once McGregor gets back from Ibiza and finishes counting his millions, nobody knows what he'll want to do next. He'll have enough money to be finished with both sports entirely, but White believes that his numerous endorsement deals and long-term aspirations mean he won't walk away from fighting just yet.
McGregor has long insisted he'll return to the UFC, and he wants to campaign in both the featherweight and lightweight divisions. He'll find no shortage of challengers eager to make big money as his opponent, with possible opponents ranging from featherweight champ Max Holloway to the winner of Tony Ferguson's bout with Kevin Lee on Oct. 7 for an interim lightweight title.
There's always the possibility of a superfight with someone like Georges St. Pierre, the long-retired welterweight champion currently preparing for a middleweight title fight. The weights don't match up for McGregor, but that has never stopped him before.
But if McGregor beats Mayweather, or even keeps it close, another boxing match could be irresistible.
McGregor would love to pursue careers in both sports, and he has a natural foe in Paulie Malignaggi, whose much-debated recent sparring session with McGregor has sparked genuine animosity between the two.
When told that McGregor likely would need a significant bump in pay to return to the UFC after his experience of boxing's more fighter-friendly pay structure, White laughed: "I've got a feeling we're going to have that conversation, and I don't mind it. I welcome that conversation."
McGregor has been eager to take that relationship even farther, stating in several interviews that he would like to own a share of the UFC. The promotion was purchased by WME-IMG last year for more than $4 billion.
"It's never been done, but anything is possible," White said in response. "There's a lot of people who feel like they're worth this and they're worth that. We know what this kid is worth, know what I mean?"
(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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