For the next phase of his career, Conor McGregor has high goals.
After coaching the pair on The Ultimate Fighter 31, which has already concluded filming and starts airing Tuesday night, the former two-division UFC champion is anticipated to make his comeback in late 2023 against Michael Chandler. The Chandler vs. McGregor battle appeals to McGregor, who hasn’t competed since suffering a severe leg injury in his trilogy fight against Dustin Poirier in July 2021.
In a UFC-produced interview, McGregor claimed, “Not only just a return — the greatest return in combat sports. This is going to be [that]. I’m going to kick this guy in the head. He’s just tailor-made for being kicked all over the place, and that’s what I’m aiming for. I am aiming to wrap this steel bar around the opponent. And you’re going to see a visual of the leg hanging off [at UFC 264] and then you’re going to see a visual off a head hanging off. So I’m excited for that and motivated for that, and steady making my way towards it.”
Although a specific homecoming date for McGregor is still unknown, UFC president Dana White recently disclosed that the campaign is aiming for late November or December. During his recuperation from his leg injury, McGregor quit the UFC’s anti-doping program with USADA. He must rejoin the program for six months before he can resume competing.
After a protracted stint as one of the faces of Bellator, Chandler joined the UFC in 2021. Since then, he has made five appearances, sporting just a 2-3 record, but he has swiftly become as one of the most entertaining competitors in the lightweight category. He even won the 2021 Fight of the Year award from MMA Fighting for his fight with Justin Gaethje.
“He’s put on some exciting fights. He’s eager. He’s willing to fight. He’s a gamer, you’d call him. And he’s not a bad fighter either, so I’m happy with the opponent,” McGregor said.
“I don’t actually care. I accepted this show, it was me and Chandler, so again it doesn’t bother me. What do I hope for in this world? I hope for 100 more fights. I hope for consistency. I hope for a run. I’ve had this on, off, on, off for the last while and I just want to get this nice consistency going. And I’m now, when I come back, this is where it’s at.”
McGregor has long yearned for consistency.
Since defeating Eddie Alvarez in 2016 to become a two-division champion, the Irishman has only engaged in four fights. Over that time, McGregor has a pitiful 1-3 record, with his lone victory coming in a match against Donald Cerrone in 2020. Even though McGregor has taken multiple protracted rests since the Alvarez bout, the hiatus he will have just completed before facing Chandler will be the longest in his UFC career. And he’s sick of that contradiction.
“One [fight per year] is not [enough]. I need [more]. I want four — three or four,” McGregor said. “If I can get where I need to get to, three or four a year is perfect. One is madness. And it’s been one, one, one on, one year off, one on, one year off, and then obviously with the leg thing it’s been a bit longer.”
McGregor, 34, stated that he is still interested in competing at lightweight and welterweight, but added that a battle with Alexander Volkanovski, the UFC featherweight champion, “could be a nice one at some stage.” On Tuesday, he and Volkanovski even exchanged insults over Twitter in reference to a prospective confrontation.
But first, there’s TUF 31 and Chandler, as well as a late 2023 comeback that McGregor hopes will signal the start of a more active phase in his mixed martial arts career.
“We’re not done yet,” McGregor said. “We’re not done yet, so by the time it’s done, I feel I’ll have a full circle and I’ll be where I want to be.”