Conor McGregor will be returning to the UFC to fight Dustin Poirier in a rematch on Jan. 23, but he’s already looking past his opponent and eyeing a different foe in another sport.

The 32-year-old McGregor (22-4 MMA; 20 stoppages; 0-1 boxing) maintains that he will fight Manny Pacquiao in 2021 after announcing the fight last September.

"I know that talks are intensifying for [a fight] this year. I am excited for a Manny Pacquiao bout and it looks like it will happen this year. What time this year? I am not sure,” McGregor told The Mac Life. "We'll have to have some good discussions with Dana White and the UFC and see where it goes. I am open to it all, ready for it all. I will certainly attain a boxing world title before I call it a day. And I would be excited to do that against Emmanuel Pacquiao."

White opined this week that he prefers for the Irishman to focus on his MMA career instead because boxing matches can be had anytime the former multi-division UFC champion pleases.

“The way that this kid (McGregor) is right now — mentally, physically, emotionally — I mean this kid is on and ready to fight. I would love to see him focus on what he can do here at the UFC,” White told ESPN. “Whether it is to take another shot at that (UFC lightweight) title against Khabib (Nurmagomedov), or fight for the title against somebody else if Khabib retires; and defend that title. You know, a boxing match with any of these guys, (like Pacquiao), that kind of stuff is always going to be there. You are the absolute best in the world right now in MMA. And the timing is right now; not getting any younger. I’d love to see him go for it here over the next year. If he wants to fight you know one of these boxing guys, do that next year. That fight’s always going to be there.”

Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) also teased this week that he has his sights set on fighting the former Floyd Mayweather Jr. foe.

“[Errol Spence Jr. and McGregor are] my options, but right now I want to experience fighting a [mixed martial artist],” Pacquiao told Business Mirror. “I will also donate a big portion of my income to Filipino COVID-19 victims.”

Pacquiao and McGregor both share the same manager in Audie Attar.

The combat sports executive believes a meeting between the two for a boxing match is a formality.

"I definitely believe it's inevitable for 2021," Attar told Dubai Eye 103.8 Sport this week. "Both fighters want it, that's the key. You can't make something happen or orchestrate it or choreograph it — which is the buzzword of this interview —  you can't fake that. If one side wants it and the other doesn't, it's not going to happen. But when both fighters want that fight to happen, why wouldn't it happen? If the fans want to see it — that almost guarantees that it's going to happen, right? As there's enough interest to develop something there."

Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com or on www.ManoukAkopyan.com