UFC president Dana White would prefer Conor McGregor to expend his energy on a career inside of an MMA cage and not in a boxing ring.

The Irishman will be headlining UFC 257 on Jan. 23 in Abu Dhabi when he takes on Dustin Poirier in a rematch. The bout will mark the first time McGregor will be fighting since January 2020, a 40 second KO over Donald Cerrone.

During the buildup of the Cerrone fight, McGregor used his platform to express that he’d welcome a boxing match against Manny Pacquiao.

If White had it his way, he’d like for the 32-year-old McGregor to bypass a fight with Pacquiao and instead focus on capitalizing on his prime years fighting in MMA.

“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.”

McGregor made massive headlines last September when he took to social media and declared a Pacquiao fight in the Middle East was next on the docket.

McGregor (22-4 MMA; 20 stoppages; 0-1 boxing) and Pacquiao (62-7-2, 39 KOs) both share the same manager in Audie Attar.

"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."

The eight-division champion Pacquiao added fuel to the speculative fire this week as well.

In an interview with Business Mirror, Pacquiao alluded that he still has his sights set on a match with McGregor.

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

McGregor’s lone venture into boxing was a box office success against Floy Mayweather Jr. in 2017 despite the one-sided knockout loss he suffered.

"[Mayweather versus McGregor] was the perfect storm. It all sort of came together perfectly with Floyd. And, you know it’s fun. It was a fun thing to do. But, you know, (it was) a sort of one and done for me,” said White. “I told you guys a few weeks ago at the fights, there’s a lot of fights out there that can make money. You’ve got people running around, talking stuff all the time. It’s not really what I do. Poirier vs. McGregor, that’s what I do.”

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