Pacquiao is arguably the only active boxer with a record to rival five-weight world champion and former McGregor foe Floyd Mayweather, and a fight between the pair would evoke memories of the former UFC champion’s scrap with Mayweather in August 2017, when the American beat him at the age of 40 in the most lucrative boxing match of all time.
In a busy week that appears to have brought an end to his two-month insistence that he is comfortably retired, McGregor ambiguously tweeted “I accept”, told a fan that he would fight in Saudi Arabia “real soon” and announced “tinatanggap ko” – “I accept” in Filipino.
Pacquiao is currently four years in to a six-year term as Senator of the Phillipines, last fighting when he became the oldest welterweight world champion in history in June 2019, beating Keith Thurman on a split decision to win a WBA title.
UFC president Dana White had suggested that McGregor had directed his acceptance tweet in English at Chechen-born Swede Chimaev, who promised to “smash” him and even revealed that he had flown to Ireland in an attempt to “beat up” McGregor for remarks he made about Khabib Nurmagomedov, the lightweight champion he lost to in 2018.
Now McGregor has reportedly contradicted White’s conclusion. “He confirmed that his ‘I accept’ tweet was not about Khamzat Chimaev,” said boxing journalist Ariel Helwani.
“He declined to further elaborate what it was actually referring to, though.”
Despite the credence they are given by huge numbers of fight fans on social media, the unreliability of McGregor’s self-published announcements often live up to his ‘Notorious’ nickname, encapsulated by his painstaking efforts to declare his retirement and prove that he has been living a carefree life far from UFC negotiations since June.
As well as the commercial temptation to recapture the success of his switch of discipline against Mayweather, a meeting with Pacquiao has an element of feasibility after the only eight-division world champion spoke of a fight with McGregor before the Irishman lost to Nurmagomedov almost two years ago.
Pacquiao shared a photo of McGregor with his vast Instagram following in 2018, wishing him happy thanksgiving and writing “stay fit my friend” followed by the hashtag “real boxing match”.
When he sent birthday greetings to McGregor again earlier this month, the 32-year-old thanked him and included the number “170” in his reply, which was widely interpreted as a challenge to fight him at the MMA welterweight limit of 170lb.
That seems an unlikely prospect for the naturally smaller Pacquiao, who is used to coming within the welterweight limit of 147lb in his chosen discipline.
Despite the potential riches of a fight with a figure who has earned well over $1 billion in pay-per-view revenue during his career, the weight discrepancy McGregor would have to accommodate to face Pacquiao at a lighter weight in the boxing ring makes an imminent bout between them seem less likely than his anticipated return to UFC.
Unbeaten Chimaev has produced an image of himself pursuing a bike-riding McGregor in a car and told White to organize a fight between them to cure his “boredom”, adding that he understood why the likes of McGregor would be reluctant to fight him.
“Beg me,” he replied to McGregor’s tweet, adding: “Call your uncle, Dana White. I will be ready.”
Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and his most recent victim, Jorge Masvidal, are among the favorites should McGregor end his half-hearted retirement.
Former middleweight title holder Anderson Silva, who McGregor has admitted excites him as an opponent, and Tony Ferguson, the lightweight contender who McGregor claimed he had been ready to face earlier this year, are also potential opponents.