He’s still one of the biggest names in MMA, and perhaps global sports. But doubts persist as to whether Conor McGregor will re-enter the octagon again this year. And any news of a delay will disappoint both fans of the sport as well as online bookmakers around the world who expect major lays on any potential fight. Despite not fighting for two years, McGregor remains serious box-office material.

    The Irishman had been penciled in to fight Michael Chandler – his rival coach on the UFC Ultimate Fighter series – before the year is out. But fresh doubt has been cast on that match-up now taking place by Chandler himself. The issue currently appears to be McGregor’s registration, or otherwise, with the United States Anti-Doping Agency, also known as Usada. According to rules, a fighter must have entered the doping pool six months prior to any contest. With Chandler and McGregor earmarked for an appearance at the final pay-per-view UFC event of the year set to take place on 16th December, the 16th June deadline appears to have passed with McGregor failing to re-register. That’s according to Chandler, while Usada records also show that McGregor has yet to be tested this year.

    McGregor removed himself from the testing pool after suffering a leg break in his defeat to Dustin Poirier back in July of 2021. The fight in Las Vegas was stopped at the end of the first round when it became clear that the then-32-year-old Dubliner had seriously injured himself while stepping back from a Poirier flurry just seconds before the end of the round. That defeat was a second in succession for McGregor, who has since moved on from the ring to focus on other ventures.

    But a fight against his fellow TV star Chandler is an enticing prospect for McGregor and fans alike. With the popular Ultimate Fighter series now finished, UFC president Dana White was confident that the two stars would meet, if not this year then early next.

    Yet in typical style, McGregor remains bullish that the fight will go ahead as planned. The Notorious has posted on social media that he is well under way in his training and preparations for the bout. And fans are far from giving up on the contest taking place this year – indeed Usada can give exemptions in exceptional circumstances, although it remains to be seen if McGregor would qualify this way.

    McGregor is a former two-weight world champion at both featherweight and lightweight class, becoming the first fighter in the history of the UFC to hold titles in two divisions simultaneously. And he is the biggest draw in combat sports. His fight at UFC 299 against Khabib Nurmagomedov is the highest selling pay-per-view bout of all time, attracting a reported 2.4 million purchases. Indeed, McGregor is responsible for the five highest-grossing pay-per-view events in UFC history. And lest we forget his professional boxing debut against former multiple world-champion Floyd Mayweather attracted an audience of 4.3 million pay-per-view buys in North America alone – the second most in the history of combat sports. 

    Michael Chandler, now 37 in comparison to McGergor’s 34, has been a professional fighter since 2009, mostly in the rival Bellator MMA organization. Chandler was a three-time Bellator champion in the lightweight division. The American switched to UFC in 2020 and made his organizational debut in 2021, defeating Dan Hooker. He has won one and lost three of his subsequent fights, earning Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night awards in the process. His bouts are always box-office.

    If Chandler and McGregor do face off in the octagon it will be in continuation of a rivalry established as coaches on the popular UFC Ultimate Fighter series. The two fighters appeared in Ultimate Fighter 31 aired by ESPN between May and August 2023. In the first episode of the series, Chandler and McGregor met in the surroundings of the UFC Apex to discuss a potential match-up. Fans of the two fighters, not to mention bettors and sports enthusiasts alike, are all hoping that a bout does indeed take place, whether it’s this year or next.