It at first appeared a bit odd that Conor McGregor was talking about boxing Manny Pacquiao, but then days later agreeing to fight Dustin Poirier in the UFC Octagon. He recently admitted, however, that one does lead to the other.
McGregor had a very public blow up with UFC president Dana White, who called McGregor's outing of a private conversation between them "breaking the man code."
Amidst all of that, McGregor in one breath said that he was going to be boxing Pacquiao in the Middle East, then in another setting up an MMA sparring exhibition for charity with Poirier.
It may have all simply been McGregor's latest ploy to get what he wanted. He insists he still plans to fight Pacquiao, who recently inked a deal with the Irishman's management team, Paradigm Sports.
But in setting up the exhibition with Poirier, which has turned into a UFC fight offer, McGregor admits to achieving two goals. He gets to face a southpaw in mixed martial arts, notching a payday, but also gains important preparation to face another southpaw in Pacquiao.
It was actually Poirier that unearthed McGregor's master plan.
“Going back to why I think he wants this fight, it’s because he’s angling to fight Pacquiao. That was in the news. So I don’t know if the UFC wants him to fight one more time before they allow him to fight Pacquiao or if he just wants to get one more this year before starting next year with the Pacquiao fight, but what better way to do it against another southpaw?" Poirier posited in an interview on “THE FIGHT” with Teddy Atlas.
“I think that might be his mind set. He wants to fight another southpaw before he fights another southpaw. I don’t know what’s going on, but I think that’s what the alignment is.”
It would be a rather smart move by McGregor, who hasn't fought since January's 40-second thrashing of Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone. He gets to shake off the cobwebs in a sport that he is much more fluent in, and gets valuable preparation to fight one of the top boxers of all time in what would surely be a blockbuster akin to his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather.
McGregor admitted as much in a tweet responding to Poirier's sleuthing.
"Correct. Southpaw box style. Continue to sharpen my MMA skills with some tough competition, while leading into my Manny bout preparation," McGregor wrote in response to Poirier's southpaw comment.
"It's not easy going between both sports and then coming back to the one sport again. Just want to keep sharp guys, that's all. It's only fair."
This line of reasoning also explains why McGregor accepted the UFC's offer to fight Poirier with one caveat: the fight must happen in 2020.
If McGregor is to shift his focus to Pacquiao in early 2021, he'll need time to focus specifically on boxing, no matter how much the fight with Poirier helps him to get ready for another southpaw.
McGregor stated that he was ready to fight Poirier, but it had to be in November or December. The UFC has yet to publicly respond to that demand.
With McGregor under contract, the UFC would likely have to be involved in some fashion if he is indeed fighting Pacquiao. It certainly wouldn't be unheard of. The Irishman often gets what he wants, and White was a key element in the promotion of Mayweather vs. McGregor in 2017. He'd be a valuable marketing tool again in a bout with Pacquiao.
Having McGregor fight under the UFC banner first, also guarantees both he and the promotion another big event in case McGregor ever decides to finally make good on one of his retirement announcements.
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