UFC superstar Conor McGregor could step back into the boxing ring sooner than previously imagined after Manny Pacquiao teased the prospect of a "real boxing match" against the Irishman on Thursday.
The eight-division world champion posted a short but direct message to McGregor on his official Instagram with a photo of the UFC lightweight champion:
McGregor hasn't been in action in boxing or mixed martial arts since he suffered a 10th-round defeat to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August. A big-money opportunity against Pacquiao could keep him away from the Octagon.
Pacquiao last fought in July, when he lost to Australian Jeff Horn.
The Notorious may enjoy Pacquiao's Thanksgiving invitation, too, since making money has always been among his chief priorities:
McGregor fell short in his boxing debut, as Mayweather survived an early barrage from the mixed martial artist before his stamina allowed him to run clear in the latter rounds.
But the major payday that came as a result of the crossover bout made the loss worth it in McGregor's eyes. He described himself as a "free agent" at the post-fight press conference, per Steven Marrocco and John Morgan of MMAjunkie:
"I have many options in MMA. I'm sure there's options that will present themselves in the boxing game. Right now, I'm a free agent. My name is on the ring.
"I'll see what's next, but I'm open. I love a good fight, and tonight was a damn good fight. I can't tell you exactly what's next, but something will be next."
The 29-year-old Dubliner is entering what should be his fighting prime, while Pacquiao, 38, is past his best and is coming off the worst defeat of his career. Horn, a former teacher, was seen as an underdog for the "Battle of Brisbane" in July but came out with a controversial unanimous-decision win.
As for what UFC prospects await McGregor, interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson has done his bit to rouse the champion's interest and recently took to Instagram (contains language NSFW):
Fans and pundits alike considered McGregor's superfight against Mayweather as a once-in-a-lifetime deal, but Pacquiao's Thanksgiving-themed poking of the bear means we may see another clash between the two sports.
Pacquiao lost to Mayweather via unanimous decision back in June 2015. While McGregor couldn't best "Money," he may wonder whether he's capable of overcoming another boxing legend in Pac Man.