The UFC has a moving target when it comes to the return of the biggest box office star the promotion has ever seen. Right now, there is still not a date for the matchup between former two-division champion Conor McGregor (22-6) and former Bellator lightweight champion “Iron” Michael Chandler (23-8).
The two were opposing coaches on the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter. The show concluded over the summer and the logical thought was that the two would fight before the end of 2023. The original target was the December card, however, when it was revealed that two title fights were booked for that card, hopes of the McGregor – Chandler fight happening in 2023 went up in smoke.
There have been questions around whether the fight would even happen at this point. However, Conor McGregor reiterated last week that his return will be against Michael Chandler. He has other opponents in mind following the Chandler bout, but he maintained that his return would be against Chandler. McGregor also indicated that the UFC having a date for the bout is imminent.
Granted, it’s not the first time we’ve heard that since this whole saga began. Michael Chandler was a guest on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Hour today and I was very curious to see what he had to say on the matter. Chandler, like McGregor, maintained that his next bout would be against McGregor assuming the former champion comes back to the UFC.
Chandler told Helwani, “The fight is still happening. The fight is not booked for a date. The fight is not booked for a venue, but the fight is booked between Chandler and Conor. There is no way that Conor comes back and doesn’t fight me. If Conor doesn’t fight me, he’s probably just not coming back and that’s out of my control.”
Chandler went on to lay out a potential timeline for the bout with McGregor. “By process of elimination, there’s a main event in December and there’s a main event in November. We are not not going to be a main event so that pushes us into 2024. I’m ready to fight in January, February, March, April, May, whenever. Obviously, it makes a lot of sense that there’s a very historic card coming up with the UFC. I haven’t been told that’s when it’s going to be, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that is when it is.”
Chandler is obviously alluding to the historic UFC 300 card which is set to take place in early 2024. If they go one PPV a month, the card would take place in April, but there have been rumblings about the event taking place in March. Just depends on the scheduling for 298 and 299.
As Chandler said, it would make a massive amount of sense to have the biggest star in MMA history headline such a historic card. Brock Lesnar was the featured attraction for 100 and 200, granted McGregor was initially wanted for the 200 card featuring his rematch with Nate Diaz. McGregor is all about competing on the biggest stage and I think he would love the idea of competing at UFC 300.
In the past, the promotion has shied away from having other champions on the same card as McGregor. McGregor does massive PPV numbers and it becomes very expensive with champions who share in PPV revenue. However, they might overlook that fact for such a historic card.