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USA Today Sports Media Group
USA Today Sports Media Group
MMA Junkie Staff

Is Conor ready to cowboy up? McGregor says fight announcement coming New Year’s Day

Will Conor McGregor return to actual competition? The former dual UFC champion says yes – and said he’ll drop some news on New Year’s Day.

Given McGregor hasn’t been in a fight since mid-2021, skeptics could be forgiven if they wondered if that announcement that news would come Jan. 1 actually meant 01-01-24, or perhaps 2025 the way things have been delayed – but the Irishman said he’ll give an update Monday.

“I will be announcing my fight date and opponent on New Years Day, 2024,” McGregor posted on X (formerly Twitter).

In January 2021, McGregor was knocked out by Dustin Poirier at UFC 257. They rematched in July 2021, and Poirier again won by TKO when McGregor broke his leg and the fight was waved off after the first round. McGregor has been out of action ever since and will approach three years of inactivity by the time his next fight takes place, regardless of whom it’s against.

McGregor recently expressed frustration at the UFC about his delayed return. He said he’s been ready to go after recently re-entering the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency drug testing pool, which will be replaced by Drug Free Sport International in 2024.

Michael Chandler (23-8 MMA, 2-3 UFC) is whom McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) was supposed to fight after they coached “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite each other earlier this year. The opposing coaches typically fight after the season. But in this case, McGregor’s USADA situation no doubt contributed to not getting a Chandler fight on the books.

With that drama going on, McGregor regularly has teased the possibility that his return to any kind of combat sport will be against someone other than Chandler.

Chandler already posited that McGregor is waiting for him to run out of patience and book a different fight – and then we’ll see the McGregor return announcement against someone other than Chandler, one of the most revered hard-to-finish knockout artists in the game. McGregor’s Saturday post seems to take a different timeline.

But Chandler also thinks it’s possible McGregor never will come back, period, and referenced McGregor’s claim that his return would be “the biggest comeback in sports history.”

McGregor remains the UFC’s best bet from a sales standpoint, which would make him likely the company’s best possible draw on what is expected to be a historic UFC 300 event in April.

McGregor won the featherweight title eight years ago with an improbable 13-second KO of longtime champ and UFC Hall of Famer Jose Aldo. He then split a pair of welterweight fights with Nate Diaz in 2016 before he won the lightweight title against Eddie Alvarez at the height of his success.

“I think right now he’s trying to wait me out,” Chandler said. “If you were him, would you want to wait as long as possible for the guy like me, who’s a real fighter, who wants to be in there, who wants to compete – so that I say, ‘Screw it, I’m going to go fight someone else,’ and then he can go fight an easier fight: Nate Diaz. He can go fight an easier fight: Tony Ferguson. He can go find a much easier fight than fighting me.”

After he became the first simultaneous two-division champ in UFC history, he was stripped of the featherweight title for failure to defend it. When he took a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather for a mega-payday, his fame peaked. But a little more than a year later, after he had been stripped of the lightweight title and tried to win it back against Khabib Nurmagomedov, he was submitted in the fourth round. A brawl ensued between McGregor and Nurmagomedov’s camp afterward, six months after McGregor attacked Nurmagomedov’s fighter bus with a hand cart in Brooklynn.

That loss and incident was the start of a tumultuous past five years for McGregor, to say the least. He has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women across multiple continents, though most of those investigations ultimately were dropped or had complaints withdrawn. He’s been arrested multiple times for physical altercations, as well.

Starting with the Nurmagomedov loss, he’s 1-3 with just a TKO win over Donald Cerrone at welterweight. At the time, Cerrone was in the middle of an 0-6 run with five stoppage losses, including the one to McGregor, to close out his career.

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