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Eddie Hearn wants to see Conor McGregor back in the cage. 

The Matchroom boxing chief is about as canny a promoter as exists in combat sports nowadays, having worked alongside several of boxing’s biggest names and hosting some of the sport’s most memorable occasions of recent years. Few fighters, though, have quite the same brand as McGregor: the UFC’s top pay-per-view draw in history, and someone who commands household name recognition the world over.

And Hearn, who has developed a friendly business relationship with McGregor over the past year or more, says that he wants to see the Dubliner back in competitive action now that he is healthy following a serious leg injury sustained in the summer of 2021, but says that the hold-up is likely down to protracted high-level negotiations between both parties.

Hearn, though, has some advice for his UFC contemporary Dana White: pay the man.

“There comes a point where, sometimes you’ll do a show where you have to give them what they want, because it’s in the best interest of the sport and the business,” Hearn told Ariel Helwani on a recent episode of The MMA Hour, as noted by MMA Fighting. “Maybe I could make more money on a small show than I do promoting Canelo Alvarez, but what does it mean to my business? What does it mean to DAZN? What does it mean to my reputation with fighters and my opportunity to sign young Mexican fighters coming through?”

Sometimes, Hearn says, you just have to cut a cheque for the greater good of the business.

“In many instances, you take a bath to deliver,” he said. “If it was me — and it’s not me, and Dana certainly doesn’t need my advice — but I’m bringing McGregor back, whatever it costs. He injects an enthusiasm and a vibrancy into the UFC that no one else can. There is no one in the sport who can make it happen for the UFC and MMA like Conor McGregor. When he comes back, the press conferences, the build up, the value of the business, the ratings, the pay-per-view numbers [rise].”

Hearn admits that sometimes negotiations with hugely prominent athletes requires a bit of back-and-forth and some posturing, but ultimately a deal is in the best interest of everyone — and in particular, the fans on whose enthusiasm all of this rests.

“He will be hard work, Conor,” Hearn explained. “Don’t worry about that. A legend. Great self-promoter.

“But what he can do for UFC — but sometimes when you talk about major corporations, like TKO, that level, maybe there’s [obstacles], ‘This is the deal.’ And that’s what happened with Ngannou, really. ‘Take it or leave it. This is your money. You won’t get anything like this.’ And off he went. … He secured the bag. But for Conor, whatever it takes, I’m bringing him back, because he can do what nobody else can. And he knows it.”