Conor McGregor has revealed he intends to return to the UFC before the end of March - despite not being enrolled in the promotion's drug-testing programme.
McGregor has not fought since he broke his leg during his second successive defeat by Dustin Poirier 15 months ago. He had intended to return this year but suffered a setback in training before landing a film role alongside Jake Gyllenhaal in a remake of Road House.
It was then revealed that the Irishman has not been drug tested for more than 12 months and is no longer in the USADA testing pool. Fighters must have been available for testing for six months in order to be able to fight - unless given an exception - which would mean McGregor could not fight until the end of April at the earliest.
But he confirmed during an Instagram Live that he intends to fight in the first quarter of next year. "I'm going to be back soon, hopefully. Early 2023, I'm aiming for," McGregor said. "Sometime in the first quarter. That will give me a good couple of months. Once I wrap this in a couple of days and get the camp going... good couple of months and get going."
McGregor has not won a fight in the UFC since he stopped Donald Cerrone inside 40 seconds of their welterweight clash almost three years ago. That was the Dubliner's first win since he knocked out Eddie Alvarez in the second round to become a two-weight champion in 2016.
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McGregor recently confirmed he plans to return at 170lb after ballooning in weight during his lay-off. But he faces a long road to a potential title shot in a third weight division with champion Leon Edwards due to defend his belt in a rematch against Kamaru Usman in the UK next year.
Khamzat Chimaev is likely to be among those clamouring for a fight against the winner if he remains in the division having failed to make weight for his fight with Nate Diaz in August. White confirmed last week he intends to match Chimaev with Colby Covington with the winner earning a title shot.