Combat sports’ biggest superstar appears to finally be ready to make a return to the Octagon… again. Conor McGregor hasn’t been seen inside the cage since the summer of 2021, when he suffered the second of two crushing back-to-back losses to former interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier.
In that final bout against the ‘Diamond’, Mcgregor came up hobbled with a badly broken leg, most likely the result of a checked kick (McGregor has been vociferous in his claim that it was merely the exacerbation of a previous injury). Whatever the cause, rehabbing it put the ‘Notorious’ Irishman on the sidelines for quite some time.
Even after McGregor repaired his busted wheel, he took more time off to vacation, shoot a movie, and to undergo some recovery techniques outside the approval of the UFC’s drug testing partner USADA. That last decision, more than any other, appears to have put a real cramp in McGregor’s Octagon return, as the SBG Ireland talent has yet to re-enter the drug testing pool for his re-entry to competition.
Conor McGregor says he’s ready to go
Fortunately, for fans wondering just when (or if) McGregor might ever make his way back to active competition, it seems that USADA problem has been ironed out. McGregor initially claimed he only needed to pass two drug tests to return from his hiatus. Only to be quickly shut down by testing officials who noted that standard procedure was 2 drug tests and six months of availability in the pool. That second condition appeared to have the 34-year-old balking hard.
In a recent, impromptu interview with the Mirror’s Donagh Corby, however, McGregor explained that his problems with USADA are now behind him. He even teased that his bout against Michael Chandler will be announced soon, and scheduled for sometime late this year.
“That’s, ehhh, that’s done, man,” McGergor responded when asked if rumors that he’d re-enter USADA testing on June 1st were true. “That’s done. By year end, I’m back in that cage, having competed. I’m clear, I’m there, I’m ready to go.”
As for the fight with Chandler? Fans should expect to find out the exact date for the coach vs. coach clash during the upcoming season of the Ultimate Fighter. McGregor recently wrapped up shooting of the reality TV show, which will air it’s first episode of the season on May 30th.
“Michael’s signed, yeah,” McGregor said of his bout with the former Bellator champ. “It’ll be announced during the Ultimate Fighter. So, the Ultimate Fighter is airing now, in a couple of days, on ESPN. And, by the time that show finishes, we’ll have a date and everything set for the fans.”
Given the enormity of McGregor’s celebrity, and the willingness of the UFC to bend rules for their top-drawing athlete, it seemed most likely that McGregor was going to find himself on the receiving end of a special exemption by the promotion. Much like the one the UFC provided Brock Lesnar in his now infamous return from retirement to fight Mark Hunt. Mcgregor would pass his two tests and the six-month window would be waved away as a mere formality.
Interestingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Shortly after McGregor’s statements went public, USADA released a message of their own to the media, saying that they had been in contact and expected the athlete to enter the testing pool “immediately.”
“We have recently been in direct contact with Conor McGregor,” USADA said in a statement released to ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, “and as he confirmed today in the media, we expect to receive his paperwork coming out of retirement and re-entering the USADA testing pool immediately.
“Like other athletes who come out of retirement, under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, McGregor will be subject to testing for at least six months and must provide at least two negative samples before being permitted to compete. The purpose of this rule is to ensure that all athletes who are not subject to a period of testing are adequately tested over a reasonable period of time before competing to ensure a level playing field for all athletes.”
UFC’s PPV schedule
No clue exactly when the UFC might target McGregor vs. Chandler for a PPV card in 2023. The promotion’s schedule is starting to look very booked up already. It seems unlikely that the UFC would put their biggest selling star down in Australia, however, with cards in New York or Vegas seeming much more likely.
Word on the street is that the UFC is planning to book Jon Jones vs. Stipe Miocic for a November PPV event at Madison Square Garden. Would they try and stack one card with two of their top-selling athletes? More likely what this means is that McGregor vs. Chandler will take place in December, as the UFC’s final PPV main event of the year—most likely in Vegas. If that doesn’t happen, then we’ll probably have to wait for early 2024 before the fight actually takes place.
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