Another episode of the Ultimate Fighter is in the books and another fighter from Conor McGregor’s rookie team has found themselves on the receiving end of some brutal punishment.
Rather than doing their usual thing, where the UFC picks up 16-odd untested fighters from the regional scene to find the next potential hot prospect on the rise, the world’s largest MMA promotion mixed things up a little. It’s not exactly another ‘comeback season’, instead Michael Chandler is heading up a team of former UFC vets in the lightweight and bantamweight divisions, while McGregor gets the to helm the prospects. If early going is anything to judge by, it’s going to be a rough season for the newcomers.
Cody Gibson annihilates Mando Guiterrez
Last week, former UFC veteran Roosevelt Roberts dropped a 9-second bomb on Nate Jennerman to open up the season’s very first episode. This time around, things lasted a little bit longer. Unfortunately for Team McGregor, that still didn’t mean Mando Gutierrez saw round 2.
Just three minutes into the opening frame, Gutierrez swarmed forward with a blitz of punches. As Gibson stepped out on the angle and pushed his opponent away, Gutierrez was forced to try and turn and reset. The moment he did, Gibson leapt in with a flying knee and leveled him.
Gibson (19-8) had four fights with the UFC between 2014-15, putting together a 1-3 record in his short Octagon stint. That result looks a lot better in hindsight, however, considering his losses came to current champion Aljamain Sterling, former WEC title challenger Manny Gamburyan, and longtime action standout fighter Douglas Silva de Andrade.
In the eight years since his UFC release, Gibson has put together a strong 7-2 record in MMA. That streak includes a win over former UFC title challenger John Dodson, and former UFC bantamweight Francisco Rivera. Gibson also faced former UFC title challenger Ray Borg at Eagle FC 44 in January of last year, losing that fight via unanimous decision.
Still no date for Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler
While the structure of TUF is supposed to be all about highlighting the fighters competing for a vaunted ‘six figure’ UFC contract at the end of the season, the real stars of the show are the coaches. Following their stint on the Ultimate Fighter, Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler are supposed to meet in the Octagon for a lightweight (welterweight?) clash. As of yet, that fight has yet to be made official.
Much of the difficulty in actually setting a date for that bout seems to lie with McGregor. The UFC superstar has been sidelined for the past two years, recovering from a broken leg suffered against Dustin Poirier at UFC 264. To aid that recovery, McGregor withdrew from the USADA testing pool. The agency has recently said the expect McGregor’s reentry in the immediate future, but Dana White was evasive about nailing down any dates in his latest press conference.
“That’s the business we’re in. Anything is possible in this business… Anything is possible, you don’t know,” White said when asked about MCGregor vs. Chandler (transcript via CBS Sports). “You guys don’t know this much of what goes on behind the scenes and how hard it is to put all these fights together.
“Conor called me a couple of days ago and loved the first episode of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ and said how happy he was to be a part of it. And I think being here and part of the environment and everything else, he felt it again and felt like he wants to get back and fight. The one thing you guys have to understand is this kid has so much money. It’s like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] now. These guys got shit loads of money and it’s hard to reel these guys back in and get them fired up to get in and fight.”
The current expectation is that the UFC would be looking to have McGregor ready for a December PPV at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (or possibly a November PPV at MSG). However, if the promotion is set on putting the SBG Ireland talent through USADA’s standard 6-month re-integration process before he can fight in the Octagon, then June 16th is the latest he can start before we’re waiting until 2024 to see this fight happen.
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