Conor McGregor says he's found boxing training so enjoyable he's planning a career that will include both UFC fights and some boxing matches.
"I love the sport of boxing," McGregor said at his media day while he prepared for his Aug. 26 boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. "Boxing has been dear to my heart my entire life. I will contend in boxing bouts going forward. And I will contend in mixed martial arts bouts going forward. I will rule both with an iron fist. That's where my mind-set is. We'll see where it goes."
Some, however, are already foreseeing a different future for the two-division UFC champion.
"After he fights Mayweather, the only promoter I think who might be interested in promoting him is [smaller, East Coast-based promoter] Artie Pelulo," said veteran boxing promoter Bob Arum. "Who the … would want to promote this guy? He can't fight for … . Don't you understand? He's not a boxer. It'll take him years to understand. And there's so many more talented guys around."
McGregor, 29, hasn't impressed purists with his footwork and punching technique, and he acknowledges the way he delivers punches in the octagon must be adjusted in the boxing ring, where he can't count on the threat of kicks, knees or elbows to set up his striking.
"There's many rookies in the mixed martial arts game from the boxing standpoint," McGregor said at his Friday session with reporters. "You better believe if the guy's not skilled in boxing, you better not let him get ahold of you.
"You can't compare me to the mixed martial arts-boxing that everyone thinks this is. That's where they might've made an error in this selection – 'this is just an MMA guy.' They've seen MMA guys come in the gym and spar. But I am not that. I'm at a different level and I think as the fight is coming closer, as they come face to face with it, they see the confidence, the difference … they see they've made a grave error. That's what I believe."
McGregor, a 6/1 underdog at Nevada sports books, has predicted his boxing match with the sophisticated, defensi-minded Mayweather (49-0) will be decided by his innate fighting skill more than a reliance on the fundamentals of boxing.
"I've been boxing a long time. They always try to close the distance, close the gap. Floyd will, as well, and pray that I fatigue, that the movement stops," McGregor said. "But it's going to be too late. His brain will already be shook, his money will already be took, and his name will already be in the undertaker's book. That's a Joe Frazier quote. This is what I've been dealing with my whole life."
Arum isn't buying the theory that MMA skills translates to boxing, and he warned a reporter, "If you're going to get yourself in serious discussions about this guy winning, you're going to look like a fool."
Sure, Arum said, he wanted to stage a McGregor boxing match against Manny Pacquiao, but he said once the Mayweather bout occurs, that ship will have sailed and McGregor will return to UFC for good.
"The ship will be revealed as having no ballast and once it's on the water it's the Sinkable Molly Brown," Arum said. "Of course I wanted Pacquiao to fight McGregor. Because it was easy money for Pacquiao. It was an opportunity for Pacquiao to pick up big, easy money. This is a one-off thing.
"[McGregor] has absolutely no reason to be in the ring with a skilled, professional fighter. And if I was wrong, why didn't he fight some journeyman to show you belong in the ring?"
When it was noted a video replay appeared to show McGregor knocking down the retired Paulie Malignaggi in a recent sparring session, Arum scoffed, "He didn't do [anything] to Malignaggi. He pushed him down."
Still, McGregor spoke impressively about his interest in the fight game, ranking Roy Jones Jr., Muhammad Ali and Mayweather as his all-time favorites while discussing current events, like whether skilled super-featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko should fight unbeaten super-bantamweight champion Guillermo Rigondeaux of Cuba.
Arum, by the way, said he's eyeing Dec. 9 as a possible date for that bout, with a Los Angeles Lomachenko-Orlando Salido rematch on the same date also possible.