Conor McGregor and Manny Pacquiao may be only in the early stages of discussions for a mega-bout, but rumors indicate that McGregor's tenuous relationship with the UFC could help make it a reality.
Last week, the Filipino champion said that he and McGregor were having some initial talks for a fight that would take place in April. UFC President Dana White answered that McGregor is still under contract and hinted that they would be willing to sue to keep McGregor from boxing again, but rumors point to McGregor's relationship with the UFC souring and the Pacquiao fight becoming something of an inevitability.
Ben Fowlkes of MMAJunkie wrote that he sees about an 80 percent chance that the McGregor vs. Pacquiao fight will actually happen. Even though Fowlkes said there would be no reason for the fight to take place -- saying the bout with Floyd Mayweather Jr. satisfied the curiosity to see McGregor in the ring and that Pacquiao is well past his prime -- he believes it will likely happen.
While the rumors of a McGregor vs. Pacquiao fight may still be in the initial stages, it appears that McGregor's former UFC foes are already expecting him to stay in the ring rather than the Octagon. This week, top lightweight contender Edson Barboza said he already considers McGregor to be gone for the world of boxing.Though the UFC has yet to vacate McGregor's title, Barboza made it clear he is out of patience when waiting for McGregor to return and defend the title.
"I'm number three in the rankings and I see [No. 2 ranked] Tony Ferguson as the actual champion," Barboza told Combate (via Bloody Elbow). "I always make this very clear. It doesn't matter whether or not Conor McGregor comes back. I don't know if he is coming back or not and I don't care. All I hope for is that whoever wins my fight with Khabib, becomes the next one to fight Ferguson for the belt."
While it is not clear if Dana White would actually be willing to sue to hold Conor McGregor to his contract, the signs appear to be pointing to a departure from the UFC.
Whether the Conor McGregor vs. Manny Pacquiao fight actually happens remains to be seen, and the coming weeks are viewed as a key period. If the fighters can make progress on a fight for April -- and if they can build enough hype around it -- then many boxing followers believe it could actually happen by early 2018.