Conor McGregor is aiming high for his much-anticipated UFC comeback. The former two-division champion, whose absence from the octagon followed a devastating leg injury suffered against Dustin Poirier in 2021, has been on a collision course with fellow coach Michael Chandler from The Ultimate Fighter 31. McGregor, teasing his imminent return before the year’s end, seems committed to this plan.
In a candid conversation with TalkSport, McGregor stated, “December – [Michael] Chandler, that’s the target. I’m looking to just grab him by the chest [and take him down]. It’s as simple as that.”
McGregor’s audacious December return goal is bound to raise eyebrows, particularly due to the absence of any drug testing on his part under the UFC’s anti-doping programme this year.
Per the existing framework of the programme, overseen by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, fighters who exit the testing pool but retain a UFC contract — typically due to retirement — are obligated to undergo a minimum of six months of testing before being cleared for competition once again.
Although a waiver can be granted to waive the six-month requirement, such an exemption has been rare since the UFC joined forces with USADA. The lone instance was back in 2016, when former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar received this privilege to compete at UFC 200. This decision backfired, as Lesnar subsequently tested positive for a banned substance. The outcome of his victory over Mark Hunt was overturned to a no-contest, and he served a one-year suspension for his transgression.
For McGregor to make good on his plan to fight in December, the UFC would need to extend him a similar waiver, mirroring the exception granted to Lesnar. Irrespective of whether he manages to step into the cage by the end of 2023, McGregor has already etched out his vision for the future. He envisions the Chandler bout as the initial encounter of a trilogy of high-profile matchups. “Chandler next in December, and then [Justin] Gaethje, BMF, and finally, we’ll seal the deal with the Nate [Diaz] trilogy,” McGregor elaborated.
Although McGregor has actively sought a showdown with Justin Gaethje, he is now deferring that ambition. Despite Gaethje’s spectacular head-kick knockout of Poirier at UFC 291, McGregor has tabled that possibility for now. Nevertheless, his interest in facing Gaethje has not waned; it merely seems to have been postponed.
The McGregor vs. Diaz 3 saga has been a topic of conversation since the two fighters split their encounters in 2016. Diaz memorably shocked the world by submitting McGregor with a second-round rear-naked choke in their initial clash. McGregor retaliated with a majority decision triumph in the rematch five months later.
The trilogy has been a long-standing ambition for McGregor, and Diaz continues to entertain the prospect of a return to the UFC. Diaz’s departure from the promotion led to a recent boxing bout against Jake Paul.