Conor McGregor says Michael Chandler still ‘has to be’ opponent for UFC return: ‘Sit down and wait and shut your mouth’

Conor McGregor says Michael Chandler still ‘has to be’ opponent for UFC return: ‘Sit down and wait and shut your mouth’

Conor McGregor still intends to finish what he started with Michael Chandler.

The former two-division UFC champion confirmed Thursday that, despite the many false starts for their proposed matchup, Chandler remains McGregor’s targeted opponent for his octagon return.

“Yes, it has to be,” McGregor told All Out Fighting. “Has to be. Chandler, sit down and wait and shut your mouth, yeah? The Mac will be here soon.”

McGregor and Chandler coached opposite one another this year on The Ultimate Fighter 31, which saw Team Chandler’s Kurt Holobaugh and McGregor’s teammate Brad Katona emerge as winners of the show’s lightweight and bantamweight brackets, respectively. McGregor and Chandler were initially expected to compete in their own fight sometime in late 2023, however the matchup ultimately never came to fruition.

When asked about that 2023 targeted date, McGregor remained hopeful — even if it appears to be a longshot at this point.

“En route, I’m still hoping for December,” he said of the Chandler matchup.

The UFC recently finalized its year-end schedule with five championship bouts taking place over the final three pay-per-views of 2023, so it’s incredibly unlikely a lucrative bout like McGregor’s return would get burned on cards that are already stacked with big fights.

UFC CEO Dana White said as much this past week when asked about McGregor vs. Chandler and the possibility that a 2023 date is now out of the question.

“I got nothing on either one of those guys right now. I’ve been saying for awhile, next year is when Conor’s going to fight,” White told reporters in Las Vegas. “And then obviously, if Chandler gets antsy, then we’ll figure something out. I think Chandler’s got a bunch of money, he’s hanging out with family, and when the time is right for the Conor fight, I’m sure that’s the fight he wants. I’m not speaking for him, I’m just saying, I’m assuming.”

McGregor has been inactive since breaking his leg in a loss to Dustin Poirier in July 2021, which marked the second of back-to-back stoppage losses for McGregor at Poirier’s hands. The 35-year-old Irishman has won just one bout since 2016 and is 1-3 over his past four fights. Nonetheless, he remains the biggest star in MMA, and he’s continued to promise that a UFC return is forthcoming.

McGregor also sounded off about the performance of his longtime rival Nate Diaz in Diaz’s recent professional boxing debut against Jake Paul.

“It was not great,” McGregor said of Diaz’s decision loss to Paul. “Not great. I’d like to see him back in MMA. I owe him a fight. I owe Nate a fight, so I’ve got to obligate that. He gave me my rematch and I got the better of him, and I owe him the trilogy for sure.”

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