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Dana White on Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler booking: ‘It’s hard to reel these guys back in’

Dana White’s UFC Vegas 74 scrum

There’s still no word on when, or even if Conor McGregor will return this year.

McGregor has not competed since snapping his leg against Dustin Poirier in their trilogy fight at UFC 264, however, the former two-division champion did return to the UFC earlier this year to coach The Ultimate Fighter opposite Michael Chandler, with the two of them intending to face off at some point in the future. The question, though, is when?

During his recovery, McGregor exited the USADA testing pool, meaning he should not be allowed to compete until re-entering and being in the pool for six months. In May, reports emerged that McGregor is expected to return to the testing pool imminently, but there has been no confirmation this has happened yet, and McGregor remains untested in 2023 per USADA’s website. Now already into June, McGregor is running out of time to re-enter the testing pool if he’s to compete before the end of the year, as UFC President White previously suggested. And while White isn’t concerned about McGregor’s return, he also didn’t guarantee that the fight will happen before the end of the year.

“You can’t think like that,” White told reporters at the UFC Vegas 74 post-fight press conference when asked if he was worried the fight might fall through. “That’s the business we’re in. Anything is possible in this business. ... Anything is possible, you don’t know. You guys don’t know this much [makes small motion with his fingers] of what goes on behind the scenes and how hard it is to put all these fights together.

“First of all, Conor called me a couple days ago and loved the first episode of The Ultimate Fighter, and saying how happy he was to be a part of it,” White continued. “And I think being here and part of the environment and everything else, he felt it again and felt like he wants to get back and fight. The one thing you guys have to understand is this kid has so much money. It’s like Khabib [Nurmagomedov] now. These guys got s***-loads of money and it’s hard to reel these guys back in and get them fired up to get in and fight.”

McGregor certainly does not need to fight ever again. “Notorious” topped the Forbes list of highest-paid athletes in 2021 following the sale of his Proper No. 12 Irish Whiskey for a nine-figure sum. However, McGregor does seem to want to return, recently releasing a four-part miniseries on Netflix title McGregor Forever which details his last few fights and his road to a return following his injury.

But if McGregor changes his mind, if something gets in the way, or if the USADA barrier simply proves to be too high for one reason or another, Dana White isn’t that fussed over it. It’s just business as usual.

“I never get concerned,” White said. “We have a massive roster of people that want to come in and people that are ready to fight and people that want to be Conor McGregor, and be at that level. For the last 20 years everybody said, ‘Oh my God, what are you guys going to do when Chuck Liddell retires? You guys are f*****. Oh my God. GSP. Anderson Silva.’ This and that. This is a professional sport. People come in here, they achieve great things, and they retire. You can never worry about that type of stuff. It is what it is. It’s part of the game. It’s my job and my team’s job to find new talent and build them and take them to that level.”

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