It has been almost two years since Conor McGregor competed in a fight. However, the Irishman may have gotten his biggest win in a long time by announcing tht he re-entered the USADA testing pool, which will no longer partner with the UFC come 2024.
McGregor has been healing from a broken tibia following a fight against Dustin Poirier in 2021. It was only his fourth fight since 2016 and his second straight loss to “The Diamond.” While healing, he has traveled all over the world and appeared in movies. He didn’t enter the testing pool, even after the finale of The Ultimate Fighter, where he posed with opposing coach Michael Chandler, teasing a fight between the two.
To return to action, McGregor had to have been in the pool for at least six months while producing two negative tests. The UFC was looking for McGregor to get granted an exemption. Following a lot of back and forth, the partnership between USADA and the UFC, which started in 2015, will end at the start of 2024.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart sent a scathing statement against the UFC, with part of the reason for not renewing its contract with the organization due to a relationship that became “untenable.”
“Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honor the six-month or longer requirement because, as of January 1, 2024, USADA will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program,” Tygart said. “Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction.
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“We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months… We are disappointed for UFC athletes, who are independent contractors who rely on our independent, gold-standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe, and fair Octagon… Fighters’ long-term health and safety — in addition to a fair and level playing field — are more important to USADA than short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes.”
With USADA out of the picture, UFC CEO Dana White told Pat McAfee the UFC would still pay an independent company for testing. Regardless, a McGregor return will happen sooner rather than later.
When will Conor McGregor fight next?
It appears that McGregor will not return in 2023. And based on recent press events, he will still face Chandler.
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“The status is, unequivocally, the fight is still happening,” Chandler said on The MMA Hour. “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’s no way 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. He’s coming back, he’s fighting me.
“At this point, by deductive reasoning, by process of elimination, there’s a main event in December, there’s a main event in November. We’re not going to not be a main event so that pushes it into 2024.”
While not giving a direct answer, White confirmed to McAfee that McGregor is expected back in early 2024.
“Well if you look at this year, the fallout from this year, the Abu Dhabi card coming up, we go to Madison Square Garden with Jon Jones facing Stipe Miocic. As we go into next year, we have the Super Bowl coming up. We have UFC 300 coming up. And Conor coming back into the mix, hopefully next year. We’ll see how that thing plays out,” said White.
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The UFC has plenty of options for a McGregor fight in early 2024. UFC 297 will be in Toronto, while UFC 300 will be sometime in the spring. The latter has been the rumored fight date for McGregor-Chandler, though nothing is confirmed yet. The UFC just announced a March 2024 fight night in Saudi Arabia. As seen by WWE Crown Jewel events, shows in the area are stacked with star athletes. It is unclear if McGregor would appear on this card.
The Sporting News will provide additional updates on McGregor’s status when available.