There is still no official confirmation, but we finally have some clarity on Conor McGregor and his UFC return.
McGregor is expected to return to action later this year against Michael Chandler. The pair were coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 31 which premieres May 30 on ESPN with the finale set to take place Aug. 15.
Usually, the coaches fight each other right after or a couple of weeks after the finale airs. The problem, however, is McGregor still needs to reenter the USADA drug testing pool and undergo testing for at least six months before he can fight again after exiting the pool in 2021.
Ideally, that means he should have entered the pool in February. But as of the time of writing, he still hasn't submitted a drug test though that doesn't necessarily mean he's not available for testing.
Of course, he could always get an exception where he would just need to submit two drug tests, and considering his star power, it wouldn't be a surprise at all.
McGregor even hinted at that earlier this year.
“I’m not rushing nothing,” McGregor said in March. “There’s hurdles and what not, but we’re in constant communication and there’s an interview scheduled and a meeting happens and then it will be official. But the six months thing, what they had said was two clean tests and off I go, so I assume it won’t be too long.”
USADA, however, would shoot that claim down which didn't go well with the Irishman.
So as the months went by, the fight appeared more and more unlikely. Chandler still remained hopeful but uncertain at the same time while UFC president Dana White had no updates as recently as last weekend.
“I don’t know,” White said following UFC Charlotte. “That’s the most-asked question I’m getting right now. Obviously, the season of The Ultimate Fighter airs soon, and during that season we will be working very hard to put that fight together.”
All that changed on Friday.
Conor McGregor provides update on Michael Chandler fight
During a media scrum ahead of the Katie Taylor boxing match last night, McGregor was asked about his status in the USADA drug testing pool and his impending return.
And as far as he's concerned, any pending issues with USADA are done and he's targeting a return before the end of the year. The official date for the fight will also be announced by the time the show finishes airing.
“That’s done,” McGregor said (via MMA Fighting). “By year end, I’m back in that cage having competed. I’m gearing up now, ready to go.
“[The fight against] Michael Chandler, it will be announced during The Ultimate Fighter. The Ultimate Fighter is airing in a couple of days on ESPN, and by the time that show finishes, we’ll have a date and it will be set for the fans.”
So still no date or venue, but at least we can have some hope that we'll see a Conor McGregor fight in 2023.
When and where could Conor McGregor fight Michael Chandler?
McGregor's words would be backed up by White following UFC Vegas 73 last night as he revealed the fight would indeed be happening and that a date would be announced by the finale of the show. Clearly, a lot changed in the space of a week.
The UFC head honcho also provided a hint as to when and where the McGregor vs. Chandler fight could take place.
“There’s a fight,” White said at the UFC Vegas 73 post-fight press conference. “He has to get into the USADA pool first. He’s filling out the paperwork. I don’t know how soon that will be done or what’s going on, but that’s his business, that he’s handling with USADA.
“But it’s all in motion. That's [before the end of the year] what we're shooting for. Hopefully, we have a big fight in Madison Square Garden in November and a big fight in December.”
The UFC usually hosts events at New York's Madison Square Garden in November and given the storied history of the venue, they always tend to make sure it's a stacked card.
McGregor was the headliner when the UFC held its first event at the iconic venue back in Nov. 2016, and his highly-anticipated return would certainly be a fitting main event for this year's New York show.
However, it also appears the UFC is planning for Jon Jones to defend his heavyweight title against Stipe Miocic in the Madison Square Garden headliner.
Given that McGregor will undoubtedly never not be the main event along with the fact that he mentioned “by year end”, it seems more plausible to speculate his fight will take place in December — especially with White hoping for a “big fight” that month.
In that case, McGregor will more than likely be fighting in Las Vegas in a possible end-of-year pay-per-view event.
Of course, this is all speculation based on the information we currently have as of the time of writing. Hopefully, we'll have an official date and venue in August when The Ultimate Fighter 31 wraps up.