Conor McGregor’s UFC return is getting closer and closer.
McGregor has not fought since breaking his leg in a loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021, but returned to the United States Anti-Doping Agency testing pool on October 8. The end of that saga also led to the end of the UFC’s relationship with Usada, which stated on October 11 that it would not renew its partnership with the UFC in January, claiming that the organizations’ relationship had become “untenable” as a result of McGregor’s situation be.
It was announced in February that the 35-year-old McGregor would face Michael Chandler this year, but McGregor stayed away from the Usada pool for months; To compete in the UFC, athletes must have been in the pool for six months with no positive test results and at least two negative test results. The UFC and McGregor hinted that he could be granted a waiver, something Usada opposed in early October.
“We can confirm that Conor McGregor has been reinstated into the Usada testing pool,” said Travis Tygart, CEO of Usada. “We have made it clear to the UFC that the UFC should not grant an exemption for McGregor (…) Unfortunately, we do not know at this time whether the UFC will ultimately comply with the six-month or longer requirement because, as of this date As of January 1, 2024, Usada will no longer be involved in the UFC anti-doping program.
“Despite a positive and productive contract extension meeting in May 2023, the UFC made a U-turn and informed Usada on Monday, October 9, that it was moving in a different direction. We are disappointed in the UFC athletes who are independent contractors and rely on our independent, gold standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe and fair Octagon. The UFC’s move threatens the immense progress the sport has made under Usada’s leadership.
“The relationship between Usada and UFC became untenable in light of statements from UFC leaders and others who questioned Usada’s principled stance that McGregor should not fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months.”
If Usada were to renew his relationship with the UFC in January and McGregor complied, his earliest return date would be sometime in April – when UFC 300 is expected to take place. McGregor even told TNT Sports on October 28, while attending Tyson Fury’s boxing match with Francis Ngannou, that April was being discussed with the UFC. However, the end of the UFC-Usada partnership in January theoretically means McGregor can return at any time after that without having to worry about drug testing rules. That could change now that the UFC has partnered with another drug testing organization, Drug Free Sport, but that remains to be seen.
UFC 298 is expected to take place in February, UFC 299 is expected to take place in March. McGregor could therefore theoretically appear on both cards, and some fans and experts believe UFC 300 will generate enough hype as it is – without McGregor having to be involved. In other words, UFC 300 can be sold on other high-profile matchups, while McGregor’s return sells itself; or: UFC 300 doesn’t need McGregor, and the Irishman doesn’t need UFC 300.
McGregor is still expected to face Chandler as the 37-year-old American has insisted on the icon’s return despite the ongoing delay. Since announcing McGregor vs. Chandler, McGregor has actually discussed possible fights with Justin Gaethje and his old rival Nate Diaz, even though the latter is no longer under contract with the UFC. Additionally, UFC president Dana White has insisted that Gaethje will not be next for McGregor.
However, there is less certainty about what weight McGregor will return at. After winning the featherweight title in 2015, McGregor captured the lightweight belt in 2016 and became the UFC’s first-ever dualweight champion, but he also competed at welterweight three times, trading victories with Diaz in 2016 and stopping Donald Cerrone in 2020. There are none Expectations are that McGregor will fight at featherweight once again, and although Chandler usually fights at lightweight, McGregor has hinted he could return at middleweight – after gaining significant weight while recovering from his broken leg.
McGregor suffered this injury in his second consecutive loss to Poirier, who knocked out the Irishman in January 2021. The pair, who fought these fights at lightweight, previously met at featherweight in 2014, with McGregor knocking out the American.
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