LAS VEGAS — Conor McGregor is usually a popular name to mark in for bettors in the sports gambling capital of the world. “The Notorious” is a hot pick for his UFC fights, many of which have taken place here, according to Jay Rood, MGM’s vice president of race and sports.
This particular fight — against Floyd Mayweather on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena — is not in an Octagon. It’s in a boxing ring. And betting on McGregor is more prevalent than ever before, Rood said.
As of Thursday morning, Rood said there were 6,700 tickets written for McGregor at the MGM sports book. There were only 330 for Mayweather. At the time, McGregor was a +350 underdog, while Mayweather was a -550 favorite.
“When we book McGregor in MMA, he’s usually the favorite and he gets a good amount of support,” Rood said. “When he fought [Nate] Diaz in the rematch, that drew pretty good, equal action on both sides. But generally, if McGregor is fighting somebody he draws pretty good action. But in this particular matchup, the number of tickets written to him is a ridiculous amount.”
When MGM opened its line for Mayweather vs. McGregor, Mayweather was a -1200 favorite to McGregor’s +700 underdog. The lines have obviously gotten much tighter and Rood acknowledged MGM might have misjudged McGregor’s following.
“We sort of missed the mark on understanding what his popularity was going to be in this, when you couple it with the fact that you’re getting a really great price on a premier athlete, who is a proven champion in his own right,” Rood said. “Like we said, it’s under the boxing rules, so the bookies and everyone has taken a pretty strong position that he’s going to be at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to that.”
Most people still feel that way, which is probably why much more money has come in on Mayweather, though more tickets have been written for McGregor. Rood said, as of Thursday morning, that 70 percent of the money coming in has been on Mayweather.
That number increased by the evening when a $1 million bet came into MGM for “Money May,” Rood confirmed with MMA Fighting after the news initially appeared on ESPN.com . That wager would net about $182,000 if Mayweather wins.
The average bet on Mayweather is around $6,000, Rood said, while the average bet on McGregor is just $125.
Rood said he wouldn’t have done anything differently with regards to the line. This strategy, he said, is the norm for Mayweather fights. The MGM bookmakers are no stranger to the all-time great boxer.
“We always need the ‘dog in the Mayweather fights, because they are such a big price,” Rood said. “We always need Mayweather to beat the ’dogs. We’re in the same position we always are with Mayweather. Mayweather has been boxing under the MGM roof a long time. We sort of always book the fight so that we need Mayweather decision. This fight is no different. We’re booking it that way and I wouldn’t want to have any other side than Mayweather. I want the guy that’s 49-0 to make some money. I might get upset, but at least I’m playing the percentages.”
Mayweather vs. McGregor is definitely a windfall for the MGM sports book, according to Rood. He said it could surpass the money wagered on the Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight in 2015, but he isn’t quite sure yet.
“It’s on pace to do what we did, or maybe a little bit more, than we did on the Pacquiao fight,” Rood said. “It’s definitely drawing more action than even a premier MMA card. It’s probably gonna draw 10 times what we’d draw on the best MMA card we’d put together. It’s going to be one of the top two boxing events we’ve ever booked.”
If McGregor somehow beats Mayweather at his own game of boxing, MGM and every other sports book in Las Vegas will take a hit. Money will be lost, Rood said, but it certainly won’t be anything catastrophic.
“If he wins, MGM will have a losing night,” Rood said. “And the state of Nevada, from a sports betting perspective, will have a losing night. But if he wins, there’s gonna be lines out the door of every sports book cashier and a lot of happy people flowing out into the rest of the casino and the clubs and everything. From that perspective, the money will be flowing through the city.”
The house always wins in the end.