CONOR McGREGOR revealed a boxing match with Manny Pacquiao is 'almost a certainty' with a contract being finalised.
McGregor makes his anticipated UFC return on Saturday, in a rematch with Dustin Poirier, who he knocked out in 2014.
But, the Irishman is already being confronted with what will be next, and Filipino icon Pacquiao is a name heavily linked to the UFC superstar.
McGregor said talks are progressing to the point a contract is being drawn up, and expects the fight to take place before the year ends.
He told Sportsnet: "It's almost a certainty.
"I'm hearing there's contracts and all coming, you now what I mean? It's that close."
"I haven't spoke, but it should happen in 2021."
Before McGregor and Poirier, both 32, confirmed their UFC 257 headliner, the southpaw was in line to face Pacquiao, 42, next.
But the UFC convinced him to commit his future to the octagon, with a return to the ring shelved.
McGregor - who lost his boxing debut to Floyd Mayweather in 2017 - explained he is eager to kickstart his MMA career again.
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But he has used preparation to face left-hander Poirier with one eye on fighting eight-division champion Pacquiao.
McGregor said: "Like I said, I want to get my MMA game going as well.
"Look, man I'm fighting Poirier who is a southpaw, Manny is a southpaw.
"I have been fighting professional boxers in the gym, sparring professional southpaw boxers in the gym in preparation not only for Dustin but in the back of my mind for Manny.
"I've had shorter 5ft 5in rockets coming at me, so I'm ready for whatever."
McGregor and Pacquiao are both managed by Paradigm Sports, headed up by Audie Attar.
And Attar has already promised his megastar clients will fight next year, due to the demand from the fans.