MMA Fantasy: What if Conor McGregor had fought Manny Pacquiao in 2021?

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Conor McGregor (left) almost faced Manny Pacquiao (right) at one point. [Image Courtesy: @TheNotoriousMMA and @DAZNBoxing via X/Twitter]

Conor McGregor is a mixed martial artist icon. That, however, does not mean that his attention doesn't occasionally wander. The Irishman has never shied away from proclaiming a future in boxing, even vowing to capture a world championship belt in the sport following his defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

His window of opportunity came in 2021 when he sought to face then-WBA (Super) welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao. His only obstacle was Dustin Poirier, whom he fought in a rematch of an earlier 2014 encounter. Unfortunately, 'The Notorious' was handed a crushing TKO loss.

Thereafter, things only went downhill for the Irishman. But what if they hadn't? What if nothing had derailed his planned 2021 boxing match with Pacquiao? What could have happened?


Mapping out Conor McGregor's alternate timeline 2021

Conor McGregor's 2021 was initially conceived as the continuation of his comeback year following his 40-second decimation of Donald 'Cowboy' Cerrone the year prior. His follow-up fight against Dustin Poirier, however, ended in disastrous fashion with a second-round TKO loss for the Irishman.

Poirier, a southpaw who favors boxing more than anything inside the octagon, was regarded as a test dummy for McGregor's planned boxing match against legendary southpaw pugilist Manny Pacquiao. This didn't come to pass. However, had the matchup taken place, it would have been for several reasons.

First, McGregor wouldn't have lost to Poirier in their rematch. Instead, he would have TKO'd 'The Diamond' in a repeat performance of his 2014 triumph over him. This would have set up his boxing match with Pacquiao. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that McGregor would have lost that bout.

Much has been made of McGregor's straight left, but it isn't as powerful as it's made out to be. In fact, he isn't as powerful as he's made out to be. What McGregor is, is accurate. He is a master of tricking his opponents into misjudging their distance and eating straight lefts they never saw coming.

He often does so by standing just beyond his foe's reach, flicking out a jab that falls just an inch short of landing to trick his opponent into thinking they're at a safe distance. Upon doing so, he leans his upper-body far forward, until his shoulders are parallel with his lead knee. This adds extra inches of reach to his punches.

However, this also causes McGregor to lead with his chin, opening him up to check hooks. Moreover, he is often on the front foot, and completely implodes when forced to fight on the backfoot, as evidenced by his struggles against Nate Diaz, loss to Floyd Mayweather, and TKO loss to Dustin Poirier.

Against Pacquiao, he would have faced a mobile southpaw who uses clever footwork to cut off his opponent's angles before swarming them with combinations. This would pose problems for McGregor, who relies on his opponent either being too tentative to force him onto the backfoot or lunging forward into a straight left.

With Pacquiao, he uses feints, moving his torso to draw out counterpunches, which McGregor would bite on, given how trigger-happy he is. Furthermore, because McGregor causes himself to be out of position when he commits to a punch, this would allow Pacquiao to angle out and pounce on the opening.

Even worse for McGregor is how this would force him to fight on the backfoot. And with how large boxing gloves are, Pacquiao could simply raise his guard and walk forward at times, taking comfort in McGregor's inability to slip punches through the small gaps in his guard because their gloves would be too large.

The Irishman also isn't exceptionally powerful in boxing, as noted by Mayweather, who described him as having average power. Against Pacquaio, there is a likelihood that McGregor would have been flatlined, especially once his gas tank failed him, as it often did.

This, however, would have spared him from the broken leg suffered against Poirier in their trilogy bout, which would have never happened in this timeline, as McGregor would have won his second fight with 'The Diamond'. So, following his loss to Pacquiao, he would have just returned to MMA.

There would have been no conflict with USADA, nor would UFC 300 have taken place without a McGregor headliner. He may have even found

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Edited by C. Naik
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