Thoughts on McGregor’s Return

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MMA fans had just gotten done salivating over the amazing card that was UFC 300 early Sunday morning when a piece of news broke that the combat sports world had been waiting to hear for several years. During his post-fight press conference inside the T-Mobile Arena, UFC CEO Dana White announced a fight for UFC 303 on June 29.

McGregor Back in Action in Late June

Conor McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC), who hasn’t fought in the sport in close to three years’ time, will be returning on June 29 to battle Bellator MMA alumnus Michael Chandler (23-8 MMA, 2-3 UFC). This welterweight showcase fight is currently slated to be the main event of the card taking place during the UFC’s International Fight Week.

At the present time, the McGregor/Chandler tilt is one of four fights currently forecast to happen on the evening of June 29. and the second marquee fight scheduled to take place under the pay-per-view spotlight in the month of June. On the first night of the month, UFC 302 is slated to be headlined by a UFC Lightweight Championship contest matching incumbent champion Islam Makhachev (25-1 MMA, 14-1 UFC) against challenger and No. 2 contender Dustin Poirier (30-8, 1 NC MMA, 22-7, 1 NC UFC).

Both of these fights are an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to close their respective shows.

White Initially Downplayed McGregor/Chandler Pairing

Although Conor McGregor first hinted at a June 29 booking against Chandler in a since-deleted social media post earlier on in the week leading up to UFC 300, Dana White didn’t want to commit to making an official reveal of the fight ahead of or during the show on Saturday. In the deleted post, McGregor was seen with someone in a Teletubbies costume.

“No, I don’t think there’s any surprises,” White told the assembled press during Friday night’s Power Slap 7 post-fight press conference. “I know what you’re talking about and it’s all Internet bull(censored.) I can honestly sit here right now and tell you [that] we do not have a deal done for the Conor fight. So, I know there’s lots of rumblings, people expect the (censored) place to go black, and some big announcement, they’re expecting them to walk out– it’s all Internet bull(censored), like NBC News.”

Smart Play from White

The comments made by UFC CEO Dana White over the weekend came straight our of the successful business playbook. White may have been in talks with the McGregor and Chandler camps earlier on in the week or even in the weeks leading up to Power Slap 7/ UFC 300 to get this pairing signed and on the books for June 29’s UFC 303.

Simply put, he didn’t want to play the hand he’d been dealt and wisely chose to keep his cards close to his vest. The rumor mill had been circulating on a McGregor vs. Chandler booking since the tail end of last year. If you recall, on New Year’s Eve, the initial rumblings of a summer 2024 return for McGregor were made when Ariel Helwani posted on X (formerly known as Twitter) that Conor McGregor met with the promotion during Christmas week.

During this time, a June 29 date was agreed upon.

Is McGregor Ready to Return?

When last we saw Conor McGregor, it was July 10, 2021, slightly over 33 months ago. That Saturday evening, UFC 264 was held in Las Vegas and McGregor fought against Dustin Poirier in the headlining bout. That contest was McGregor’s second in that calendar year after staging a brief retirement in the summer of 2020 and a trilogy bout.

McGregor suffered a broken leg, resulting in the doctors calling the bout off at the end of round one. At the time of the injury, the prognosis was a minimum hiatus of at least one full year, but during the recovery process, “The Notorious” mentioned that he was progressing along nicely.

“Five weeks, five days since the surgery and they told me I wouldn’t be able to cycle until eight weeks [after the surgery)”, McGregor stated at the time, “and he just told me right here today that I can cycle again!”

Since the initial injury, McGregor has been tending to business matters, including appearing in MGM’s recent remake of the 1989 film Road House, co-starring Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal. While he’s a businessman trying to strengthen his own brand, he’s known for being an amazing fighter.

His time away from the cage was needed and you have to believe that it’s now high time for Conor McGregor is prepared to come back home to the famed Octagon. However…

It’s Time for McGregor to Apply Himself!

Now that the date is set and the fight is booked, training camp is about to begin, if it hasn’t begun already. Yes, McGregor’s media engagements are about to ramp up.

Yes, McGregor’s persona will be on display for all to see during a press conference ahead of UFC 303 this summer and it’ll no doubt be amazing to see once again after having not made an appearance in three years. His strength and conditioning is most important now.

If he fails to have a great training camp, it’ll show up on fight night. However, if McGregor’s camp exceeds expectations, the UFC 303 main event will be his best fight ever. We’ll undoubtedly make a call on the fight when the time comes, so keep it locked to this Website in late June for that.

Final Thoughts

There’s no denying that Conor McGregor is among the most marketable names in UFC promotional history. In 2021, ahead of his trilogy contest with Poirier, Forbes Magazine listed “The Notorious” at No. 1 on its top 10 highest-grossing athletes. Current Inter Miami CF forward Lionel Messi ranked No. 2 on said list.

Although McGregor didn’t crack the top 10 in its most recent list in May of last year, he’s still raking in the cash and he’ll undoubtedly bring in the pay-per-view buys this summer. Be sure to tune in for his return.

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Drew Zuhosky has been writing about combat sports since May of 2018, coming to MMASucka after stints at Overtime Heroics and Armchair All-Americans. A graduate of Youngstown State University in Youngstown, OH, Drew is a charter member of the Youngstown Press Club. Prior to beginning his professional career, Drew was a sportswriter for YSU's student-run newspaper, The Jambar, where he supplied Press Box Perspective columns every week.

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