Conor McGregor has lofty expectations for the next stage of his career.
The former two-division UFC champion is expected to make his return to action in late 2023 against Michael Chandler following the duo’s coaching run on The Ultimate Fighter 31, which already wrapped filming and begins airing Tuesday night. McGregor has not competed since July 2021, when he suffered a devastating leg injury in his trilogy bout against Dustin Poirier, however he likes what he sees in the Chandler matchup.
“Not only just a return — the greatest return in combat sports,” McGregor said in a UFC-produced interview. “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.”
While there remains no definitive timeline for McGregor’s return, UFC president Dana White recently revealed that the promotion is targeting late November or December. McGregor left the UFC’s anti-doping program with USADA during the recovery of his leg injury and is required to return to the pool for six months before he is eligible to compete again.
Chandler carries just a 2-3 record over five UFC appearances since joining the promotion in 2021 after a lengthy run as one of the faces of Bellator, but has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting fighters in the promotion’s lightweight division. His battle with Justin Gaethje even captured MMA Fighting’s 2021 Fight of the Year award.
“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.”
Consistency is something McGregor has long coveted.
The Irishman has fought just four times since becoming a two-division champion in 2016 with his victory over Eddie Alvarez. McGregor holds a paltry 1-3 record over that time, with his lone win stemming from a 2020 contest against Donald Cerrone. McGregor has taken several lengthy breaks since the Alvarez fight, but by the time he returns to face Chandler, it will have been the longest break of his UFC career. And he’s tired of that inconsistency.
“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, reiterated his interest in fighting at both lightweight and welterweight, but also mentioned a matchup against UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski “could be a nice one at some stage.” He and Volkanovski even traded barbs over Twitter on Tuesday regarding a potential matchup.
Anytime. Anywhere. Any weight! https://t.co/OXRsD60FeD— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) May 30, 2023
First up, though, is TUF 31 and Chandler — as well as a late 2023 return that McGregor hopes marks the beginning of a more active chapter for his MMA 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.”