Sources: Conor McGregor planning on UFC return, not Paulie Malignaggi fight

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist

The talk of UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor taking another boxing match is, multiple sources told Yahoo Sports, no more than that. The Irishman plans to return to the Octagon, most likely by the end of the first quarter next year.

It’s unlikely McGregor fights by the end of the year, though it’s not completely out of the question. Whenever McGregor chooses to fight again, it almost certainly will be in the UFC, with interim champion Tony Ferguson and Nate Diaz the leading options.

UFC president Dana White has said he thinks the Ferguson fight is the one that makes the most sense, and that’s the one most likely to occur.

Though McGregor has kept a relatively low profile since his Aug. 26 loss to Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match, he confirmed last month at an event in Glasgow, Scotland, called “An Evening with Conor McGregor” that he would fight again. Manager Audie Attar confirmed that is still McGregor’s intention.

But the odds of McGregor fighting his one-time sparring partner, ex-boxing world champion Paulie Malignaggi, are basically nil, despite Malignaggi’s public comments.

BoxingScene.com quoted Malignaggi as saying: “It happens if he wants it. I have spoken to my team. … Like Mayweather, I am with Al Haymon. I know Haymon has reached out to Dana White.”

White didn’t comment to Yahoo Sports, but when Malignaggi’s quote was sent to him via text, he sent an emoji of an eye roll.

Malignaggi has campaigned hard for a bout with McGregor ever since the two split as they were working together during McGregor’s preparations for the Mayweather fight.

Malignaggi blasted McGregor for the accommodations he provided him, and was angered that McGregor put out photos of their sparring that appeared to show Malignaggi had been knocked down.

Paulie Malignaggi said negotiations are underway for a boxing match with Conor McGregor, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. (Getty)

After much back and forth about it, White released a short video of the sparring.

That incensed Malignaggi, who had announced his retirement as a boxer in March, and spurred talk about a match with McGregor. Multiple sources, though, say there has been no substantive talks toward making a McGregor-Malignaggi fight.

There is little good that comes from a McGregor-Malignaggi match. While there was nothing good from an athletic standpoint that came from seeing McGregor make his pro boxing debut against Mayweather, one of the greatest boxers of all-time, the money was so overwhelming that it was hard to ignore.

McGregor made around $100 million for the bout with Mayweather. He’d make only a tiny fraction of that to fight Malignaggi, who didn’t seem to have much left in a March 4 knockout loss to Sam Eggington. Malignaggi announced his retirement via social media two days later, ending his career with a 36-8 mark and seven KOs.

A McGregor-Malignaggi match would also not have the factor of the unknown going for it, as a McGregor-Mayweather bout did. Though Mayweather was an overwhelming favorite, those pushing McGregor pointed to his powerful punches as a reason he could win. But now, even though the experience of going nearly 10 full rounds with Mayweather will undoubtedly make McGregor better in boxing if he chooses to do it again, there is a read on the type of boxer he is now.

It’s easier to quantify his punching power, as well as his strengths and weaknesses, now that he’s been in the ring and experts have been able to break down the tape.

All of it renders a bout with Malignaggi extremely far less interesting than the bout with Mayweather had been.

McGregor remains focused on MMA, sources say, even though a representative for ex-world champion boxer Manny Pacquiao sent out a feeler to McGregor about doing a fight.

Top Rank president Todd duBoef said he knew Pacquiao had expressed interest in fighting McGregor before the Mayweather fight was finalized. However, duBoef said he knew nothing of any recent contact between representatives of Pacquiao and those of McGregor.

The interest in boxers wanting to fight McGregor is indicative of his massive drawing power. So, too, is the £100,000 McGregor reportedly made for the Sept. 29 question-and-answer session in Glasgow, as reported by The Scottsman.

But he has a title to defend and two intriguing UFC opponents to pick from. A McGregor-Ferguson fight for the undisputed UFC lightweight title or a rubber match with Diaz would be massive events in MMA.

Either one would be awesome and far better than any boxing match McGregor could possibly take.

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