Arum floats Crawford-McGregor crossover fights

UFC superstar Conor McGregor has made it no secret that he has interest in trying his hand at boxing again, be it in a rematch of his 2017 knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather in the second-highest grossing pay-per-view in history or perhaps a showdown with another legend, Manny Pacquiao, both of whom have also shown interest in facing him.

But Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has another idea for McGregor — and one with a twist.

Arum said that he would like to make a two-fight deal with UFC president Dana White for McGregor to fight undefeated welterweight world boxing titleholder Terence Crawford — first under MMA rules inside the Octagon, then a second fight under boxing rules.

“You’ve got an elite boxer in Terence Crawford fighting an elite MMA guy in Conor McGregor under MMA rules,” Arum told ESPN on Wednesday. “You don’t think that would be interesting and something the public would want to see? I think it’s very realistic.”

Arum said there have been some discussions between the sides but declined to specify which parties had talked.

“Whenever they are ready, we are ready,” Arum said. “We’d do the MMA fight first if that’s what they want.”

McGregor crossed over to the boxing ring for the fight with Mayweather, and all of the recent discussion of male crossover fights has always been about the MMA athlete going to box. Crawford is the first elite male boxer in his prime to say that he is willing to fight under MMA rules. Crawford, who has a background in wrestling, said he would embrace a chance to fight McGregor in the cage or in the ring.

“I’m a fighter first. As a fighter, I would entertain it,” Crawford told ESPN. “I just have to have the proper time to prepare myself. It would be a little more than boxing training. I haven’t been in that [wrestling] environment in a long time, but most definitely I feel I can compete with anyone given the proper time to train on the MMA side, being that I have a wrestling background. McGregor would have to worry about my stand-up game as well. It would be interesting. He’s got good kicks and he’s strong. I’d have to prepare myself for those things, but I feel I would be all right.”

What Crawford has really wanted is the opportunity to face other top 147-pounders and unify world titles, but all of the other elite welterweights, such as unified titleholder Errol Spence Jr., titlist Pacquiao and former titleholders Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia all fight under the Premier Boxing Champions. Crawford is with Top Rank, making those bouts extremely difficult to make.

“I can’t get none of these top welterweights in the ring to fight me so whatever is clever. I’m with it all,” Crawford said of a potential major fight in MMA.

Arum said fighting Crawford would make sense for McGregor (22-4 in MMA, 0-1 in boxing), who scored a vicious 40-second TKO over Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 246 last Saturday night in Las Vegas in his first MMA bout since losing to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.

“Fighting Crawford would be great for McGregor because he has no chance in a boxing match except to pick up a check,” Arum said. “In an MMA match he would be the favorite, but Crawford would have a chance because he’s one tough dude and because he has a wrestling background. I think that Crawford is the one boxer that can compete with an elite MMA guy under MMA rules. We’d do two fights so we can level the playing field by fighting in both disciplines. Mayweather and Pacquiao would never fight under MMA rules. Crawford would.”

Crawford (36-0, 27 KOs), 32, of Omaha, Nebraska, one of the top boxers in the world pound-for-pound, wrestled in middle school and still dabbles in it when not preparing for boxing matches.

“I always had the talent for wrestling but I liked to throw my hands. I liked punching people in the face more than hugging them,” Crawford said. “My dad was a wrestler, my uncle and my grandfather wrestled, and they were always teaching me the moves. I just liked boxing more.

“A lot of people may say if Terence goes into the Octagon he will get crushed but they don’t know me.”