UFC confidential: With Conor McGregor’s fighting future in doubt, what should Michael Chandler do next?

Will Conor McGregor actually fight Michael Chandler? Will it be in 2023? Only McGregor seems to know … and frankly, even he might not know at the moment.

McGregor (22-6) is expected to face Chandler (23-8) at some point following the conclusion of Season 31 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series on ESPN, which the two filmed together in Las Vegas earlier this year. The seventh episode of the season airs this week, and thus far, Team Chandler athletes are a perfect 6-0 over Team McGregor.

At this time, however, the 34-year-old has not rejoined the USADA drug-testing pool, which he is supposed to be in for at least six months prior to any return to competition. McGregor is also currently facing sexual assault allegations. There is no rumored date for the fight, nor any clarity on what weight it would be at. UFC president Dana White insisted last week the fight could still happen this year, but the comments felt far more theoretical than tangible.

In the meantime, Chandler, 37, is left biding his time, waiting for MMA’s equivalent of a winning lottery ticket. He has told ESPN multiple times he remains confident McGregor will fight him eventually — because not doing so would leave a “stain” on his legacy — but in many ways, the fight feels no closer today than it did months ago, when the UFC first announced it.

How long is Chandler meant to wait for an opponent who has only fought four times in the UFC over the past seven years?

ESPN anonymously polled multiple MMA managers on what their advice would be to Chandler, who is now in jeopardy of going a full calendar year without a fight for the first time in his 14-year career.

‘You can’t wait for something that might never happen’

“He’s going to have to move on. You can’t sit around and wait for something that might never happen. McGregor still has such a big ego and his confidence hasn’t diminished, but that doesn’t matter when they shut that cage door on you and I think deep down he knows that. Chandler is the best stylistic fight for McGregor because Chandler will get a little reckless and McGregor has that precision striking. There’s no doubt that’s a good fight for him, and he still doesn’t want it. That’s why they call it ‘F— you money,’ because he can just say, ‘F— you, I’m not doing this anymore,’ and everything in his actions is saying that. I wouldn’t be surprised if we never see McGregor again after this. This show was his last hurrah — or if he does talk about a fight again, he’ll be the boy who cried wolf and we’ll all say, ‘Yeah, OK.’ And that’s fine. McGregor has left an amazing legacy, he doesn’t need to fight anymore.”

Will McGregor vs. Chandler ever happen? “I don’t think so. Believe people when they show you who they are. Don’t try to convince yourself of another narrative. We’ve been waiting for McGregor to get into the USADA pool in time to fight by December, and that date came and went. So, what are we doing now? Waiting on a guy with hundreds of millions of dollars to come back and fight Michael Chandler, a guy with nothing to lose? It doesn’t make sense.”

‘If the UFC 300 deadline passes, book another fight’

“If he’s my client, I’m telling him to sit and wait. Chandler hasn’t beaten anybody of note in the UFC. He’s been able to get these big fights based on his name. It’s like the saying, ‘Don’t kick a gift horse in the mouth.’ The UFC is giving you these big fights without you having to really earn them through the grind of winning fights, so sit and wait for the gift they’ve given you. I would say though, UFC 300 in March or April, once you pass that milestone of being on that card or not — if that fight isn’t made by UFC 300, I think it’s then clear that McGregor isn’t coming back. So if I’m Chandler, I’m shooting for UFC 300, which means McGregor would need to be in the USADA pool around October. If that deadline passes, book another fight.”

Will McGregor vs. Chandler ever happen? “Even though I would still tell Chandler to wait, right now, I think there’s a 10 percent chance that fight happens.”

‘I don’t know what other options exist’



Round 1 of Poirier-Chandler was a roller coaster

Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler trade blows in an incredible first round of their fight.

“At this point, I would still advise him to wait. That’s the best opportunity on the table — and no other opportunity will come remotely close to that. Maybe set a deadline on when you’ll move on, based on Chandler’s obligations in life or his family needs, but I don’t even know what other options exist for him. McGregor’s actions aren’t matching what he’s saying at this moment, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be fighting in six months because he hasn’t met that USADA requirement. But that’s the first question I would want to be answered. What does the situation with USADA look like? Is it for sure six months, or is there a situation in which he could fight sooner? Chandler has done a phenomenal job creating these big fights, but if you look at the top five, he’s already fought Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira. A fight with McGregor, I would think, is going to pay him four to five times more than any other fight. So I would continue to wait.”

Will McGregor vs. Chandler ever happen? “Yes.”

‘I just don’t think Conor is motivated to fight Chandler anymore.’

“I would tell him to take a fight. I just don’t think Conor is motivated to fight Chandler anymore. And things change so fast as fights happen. Obviously, we don’t have a crystal ball or anything, but what if Alexander Volkanovski beats Islam Makhachev and calls out Conor McGregor? Does McGregor end up taking that fight over the one Chandler’s waiting on? Chandler’s profile has already risen from the show, and a fight against McGregor will always be there, if and when Conor does come back. With some of my guys, it doesn’t matter how successful they are, their commitment to the gym never changes. I don’t know if that’s the case for McGregor. I don’t know what’s going to happen for the rest of the show, but Chandler’s team is 6-0 right now. I would try to bait McGregor on that or reach out to his management team directly to gauge whether the fight will happen.”

Will McGregor vs. Chandler ever happen? “No.”

‘Conor McGregor will certainly fight again’

“I would talk to the UFC and say, ‘Hey, is this realistic?’ I would then assess whether I could take another fight and still have the McGregor fight after that. Go to the UFC and say, ‘Hey, this guy isn’t fighting until next year, it’s only July, can I take another fight in the meantime and still have that fight waiting for me?’ The UFC would never put something like that in writing, but I would lean into that relationship and just have to take their word on it. But I would want to take a fight this year because it just feels like there are significant hurdles that need to be overcome in order for McGregor to fight again, and I don’t know if those hurdles are being overcome right now.”

Will McGregor vs. Chandler ever happen? “If it’s a one-word answer, yes. To elaborate, I would say Conor McGregor will certainly fight again, I just don’t know when it will happen and whether it will be against Chandler when it does. But he will fight again, without a doubt.”

‘Wait as long as there is money in your account to live’

“Wait as long as you can, and milk this because an opportunity like this is not going to come again. Chandler is probably never going to be a lightweight champion, he’s nearing the end of his career. He has kids, he has a family. Wait as long as there is money in your account to live. Fighting McGregor is worth millions, and it’s not even just about the money. It’s the magnitude of the fight. And it’s a winnable fight for Chandler. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain; why would he walk away from that? McGregor will fight again. His ego will force it. He loves the attention too much.”

Will McGregor vs. Chandler ever happen? “I think this fight will happen, and I still think it will happen by the end of this year.”

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