At one point, Irish sensation Conor McGregor was in serious talks to face boxing legend, Manny Pacquiao. The two had mutually expressed a strong desire to meet in the boxing ring on numerous occasions. However, the fight never materialized.
This would have been the second time fans would have seen ‘The Notorious‘ lacing up his boxing gloves. Previously, the Dublin native went toe to toe with arguably the greatest boxer of this generation, Floyd Mayweather. Unfortunately for the Irish superstar, Conor got stopped in the 10th round.
Despite losing his boxing debut, Conor appeared determined to grace the squared ring once again, this time against the Filipino boxing icon. In February 2020, Paradigm Sports Management, the agency that manages Conor McGregor, signed Manny as a client. The signing was supposed to solidify the final years of his boxing legacy.
For fans unaware, Manny exploded onto the global boxing scene after defeating Edmund Ignacio in 1995. Since then, he has established himself as one of the sport’s GOATs. Boasting a professional record of 62-8-2, Pacquiao became the only boxer in history to win 12 major world titles across eight weight divisions.
He even faced Mayweather in 2015 in a match many thought the Filipino won. Thus, having a common past opponent in Floyd, a fight between Manny and McGregor would have surely attracted a tonne of eyeballs. But, why did the fight never materialize? Let’s find out.
When did the talks for Conor McGregor vs Manny Pacquiao begin?
After Manny signed with Paradigm Sports, Conor tweeted that the management firm was trying to arrange a bout between Pacquiao and Mikey Garcia. However, due to interference from Manny’s other representatives, the fight fell off.
Months later in September of the same year, Conor tweeted that he’d be facing the legendary Filipino boxer next in the middle east. McGregor wrote – “Anyway all water under the bridge who gives a fook. I’m boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East.”
Conor’s manager, Audie Attar told ESPN that the fight wasn’t a done deal at the time. He did add that Conor plans to fight Manny in late December or early January 2021. In terms of locations, the middle east was one of the many that expressed interest in hosting the fight, as per Audie.
Anyway all water under the bridge who gives a fook.
I’m boxing Manny Pacquiao next in the Middle East.
— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) September 25, 2020
In the following days, Manny’s aide, Jayke Joson, confirmed the plans for a fight between the two in 2021.“For the sake of all the Filipino Covid-19 victims, Senator Manny Pacquiao will be fighting UFC superstar Conor McGregor next year,” Jayke said. “The huge portion of his earnings will proceed to those who are affected nationwide by the pandemic.”
Even before Manny signed with Paradigm Sports, Conor seemingly had his eyes on the boxing legend. Days before his fight with Donald Cerrone in January 2020, Conor said in a pre-fight presser, “What a fight that would be against Manny. A small, powerful southpaw. I’d have to figure out the weight and these things. But something that interests me, no doubt.”
Unfortunately, 2020 came to an end and the fight never materialized. However, the talks for the fight only kept on getting stronger. In fact, if Conor is to be believed, he was looking past Dustin Poirier during their rematch because he had his eyes locked on Pacquiao.
Why did the fight never materialize?
Days before locking horns with Poirier at UFC 257, Conor said the talks for the Pacquiao fight were “intensifying.” So much so that he even had a camp in place for the boxing match. While speaking to Stephen A. Smith, McGregor shared “I was looking past him (Dustin). I had a Manny Pacquiao camp in place.”
Conor McGregor on a potential boxing match against Manny Pacquiao.
— MMA History Today (@MMAHistoryToday) January 14, 2021
This claim became more believable when he faced Poirier for their rematch. Fans witnessed Conor leaning strongly toward a boxing stance rather than his usual karate stance. This was a strong reason Conor couldn’t evade Dustin’s calf kicks, eventually losing to ‘The Diamond’ via TKO.
One of the reasons ‘Pacman‘ shut his eyes on a possible showdown against McGregor was that it wouldn’t have received the kind of hype he was hoping for. Since Conor was coming off a loss to Dustin, the build-up to their fight couldn’t have garnered enough interest. This forced Manny to close the door on a Conor fight.
— Manny Pacquiao (@MannyPacquiao) January 24, 2021
If there were any leftover chances to score a fight with the Filipino boxer, Conor seemingly lost them after losing to Poirier for the second time in 2021. Following the UFC 264 bout, Manny’s head coach Freddie Roach said he had “no interest” in pursuing the gigantic crossover fight.
While speaking to The Sun, Roach said, “Manny does not have any interest in fighting an MMA fighter. He wants to fight the best fighters out there. If there is another fight after this (Yordenis Ugas) it’s not going to be McGregor, it’s going to be one of the best guys out there.”
Manny’s strength and conditioning coach, Justin Fortune, shared similar feelings. While speaking with Coffee Friend, Justin said, “McGregor does not deserve to fight Manny, why give McGregor the payday? What gives him the right to fight Manny, McGregor has loss after loss after loss.”
At one point, it appeared as though Conor would meet Manny in the boxing ring. Unfortunately for the fans, it never materialized. Pacquiao is currently retired from professional boxing, having last fought and lost to Yordenis Ugas in August 2021.