LAS VEGAS — It's fight weekend in Las Vegas and sportsbook operators are bracing for a rush of money from Conor McGregor backers until the final bell.
Months ago, when the prospect of a Floyd Mayweather-Conor McGregor fight was still just speculation, some sportsbooks went ahead and posted odds. With this being a boxing match, Mayweather opened a monster favorite at odds well beyond -2000, while McGregor had a healthy underdog price of +1000 or better.
When the fight became official two months ago, Mayweather slid closer to -1000, with McGregor in the range of +600 to +700. Since then, some Vegas books got as low as -500 on Mayweather, and offshore books occasionally flirted with Money May at -400 or less. Now, two days out from Saturday’s spectacle at T-Mobile Arena here in Las Vegas, Mayweather is generally between -550 and -600, with McGregor in the ballpark of +400 to +450.
Joey Oddessa, a longtime mixed martial arts oddsmaker, understands those precipitous odds drops were due to the massive influx of McGregor money. But considering Mayweather is arguably the greatest boxer of his time, and McGregor has never boxed professionally, Oddessa thinks those adjustments don’t reflect reality.
“I think the sportsbooks went down too soon on McGregor’s odds,” Oddessa told Covers, a Tribune sister site. “The value was gone when he dropped below +800, if there was even value there. Because there’s no value in a losing wager.”
That statement tracks well with Oddessa’s opinion ever since the idea for this fight came up: that Mayweather should easily win, and that McGregor has almost zero chance. Nick Kalikas, himself a well-respected MMA oddsmaker (mmaoddsbreaker.com), falls into that camp too, generally speaking, but he’s not at all stunned by the overwhelming ticket count in favor of McGregor.
“I’m not really surprised, because this is a unique situation,” Kalikas said. “You’ve got two of the most popular athletes in their respective sports, especially with McGregor. We’ve seen it since his early UFC days. The Irish fans came in and supported him like crazy, and now the European fans too.”
And clearly, American bettors here in Las Vegas have piled on, too. On Thursday afternoon, Westgate Las Vegas Superbook manager/oddsmaker Jeff Sherman tweeted out that 92 percent of the tickets are on McGregor, a 12/1 ratio. Many are just attracted by the plus-money price, even as that price has dramatically plunged. But Kalikas said McGregor’s unwavering confidence is at play, as well.
“The sharp action is coming in now and laying the chalk on Mayweather, and they are fairly confident,” Kalikas said. “But it’s amazing, man. Conor McGregor is something special – the drawing power he has, and he is confident. He thinks he is gonna knock out Mayweather. It’s no BS on his part. It’s genuine. He does believe the stuff that comes out of his mouth. And you’ve got to respect that.”
But you don’t necessarily have to believe it, and neither Kalikas nor Oddessa believe it.
“Some of it may be question marks on Mayweather, that he hasn’t fought in two years, that he’s 40. I think that’s the only way Floyd loses – if an old man steps into the ring,” Kalikas said, adding he doesn’t expect that at all. “Most people in the know, boxing analysts, don’t give McGregor a chance. And that’s how it should be. Despite what the odds are saying right now, this would be the biggest upset in boxing history.
“Mayweather has faced better pure boxers in the past, so I don’t think it’s gonna happen. It would almost be a miracle.”
Oddessa said bettors backing McGregor are doing so not based on value, but on emotion. That will lead to many more wagers on McGregor before this fight goes off Saturday night, with droves of fans plowing into town from Ireland, and again, no shortage of American fans thinking a plus-number equals value.
“If you take the emotion out of it, go from a 10 to a 1 on the emotional meter and put common sense in, use their heads to actually bet on the winner, then they’ll bet Floyd Mayweather or sit this one out,” Oddessa said. “The one word that can sum up this whole fight is ‘believe.’ The people betting Conor McGregor truly believe he can beat Floyd Mayweather.”
But it comes down to where the value truly is. And with Mayweather a far shorter favorite now than he was months ago, Oddessa said emotion and fandom must be put aside.
“I’d want to root for McGregor, but I can’t. He’s not gonna win,” Oddessa said. “I’m not a fan of anybody. I’m a fan of money.”
Patrick Everson is a Las Vegas-based senior writer for Covers, which is also owned by Tribune. Follow him on Twitter: @Covers_Vegas.