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28 Sep, 2020 12:54

'The Saudis are loyal to Khabib': Russian UFC star's manager mocks talk of McGregor boxing bout in Middle East

'The Saudis are loyal to Khabib': Russian UFC star's manager mocks talk of McGregor boxing bout in Middle East

Conor McGregor's plans of facing Manny Pacquiao in a blockbuster boxing match in the Middle East are unlikely to happen because key players in the region are loyal to UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, the Russian's manager says.

McGregor and Pacquiao are in talks to meet in the ring later this year or in early 2021, as revealed by the Irishman in a bombshell tweet on Friday.

'The Notorious' named the Middle East as the location for the contest, which would be his second professional boxing outing after he famously faced ring icon Floyd Mayweather Jr in a Las Vegas money-spinner in 2017. 

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One man avowedly skeptical that the fight will take place – at least in the Middle East – is Ali Abdelaziz, the manager of McGregor's former octagon foe Khabib.

In a series of tweets on Monday – initiated by a scathing put-down of McGregor by UFC lightweight Justin Gaethje, whom Abdelaziz also manages – the Dominance MMA CEO claimed that factors ranging from the majority-Muslim region's loyalty to Khabib to McGregor's whiskey brand would mean he never gets near the ring in the Middle East. 

"Human[s] are not perfect , but you are the last m******r people from Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi would do business with," Abdelaziz wrote. 

"Especially after you said about Muslims, insulting parents, families etc.

"The Saudi people and Saudi leadership are loyal to Khabib. Remember he talked about man's wife compared her to a towel, talked about man's religion, father. Our people are loyalty each other," he added. 

Abdelaziz added that if there were to be an MMA megastar who swaps the cage for the boxing ring to compete in the Middle East, it would be his man Khabib – who is a devout Muslim and enjoys significant popularity in the region – against Mayweather Jr.  

The tweets appear to be the latest example of the extreme acrimony which exists between Abdelaziz and McGregor, which has bled over from the Dubliner's blood feud with Khabib and which has since extended to Gaethje. 

McGregor's surprise tweet in which he announced that he was going to box Pacquaio suggested that the bout is to be hosted in an as-yet-unnamed Middle Eastern country, and stands contrary to Abdelaziz's claim that promoters in the region would distance themselves from McGregor. 

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Regardless of McGregor's prior antics, the Dubliner remains among the biggest pay-per-view commodities in global sport, and it would appear to stand to reason that some players in the region would consider the opportunity to stage a fight between the Irishman and Pacquaio – particularly given the voracious appetite recently displayed by various Middle Eastern countries to hold large sporting events in their territories. 

In addition to the UFC's recent partnership with the Abu Dhabi tourism board to stage a series of events on 'Fight Island', last year's boxing world heavyweight title rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz took place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The same city also invited the WWE told hold an event (featuring Tyson Fury) in the same city last October. 

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A McGregor-Pacquiao bout would offer considerable crossover appeal, and if the often turgid world of fight promotion has taught us anything over the years, it is that a blind eye can often be cast – so long as there is money to be made. 

And there is a fortune on offer here for all parties, regardless of Abdelaziz's protestations.