mcgregor-vs.-chandler-‘likely’-for-conor’s-return-fight

Conor McGregor may look like a welterweight these days, but the UFC is still looking to match him up against a lightweight when he eventually returns in 2023.

That’s according to a new yet-to-be released interview from ESPN MMA between Brett Okamoto and UFC president Dana White. ESPN producer Charlie Moynihan dropped two news tidbits that came from the conversation, and one of them was McGregor’s ‘likely’ next opponent: Michael Chandler.

“@TheNotoriousMMA next fight is likely against @MikeChandlerMMA,” Moynihan tweeted.

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Dana White push for a Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler fight.

“I don’t know, I really like Chandler vs. Conor after Chandler’s last fight,” White said in an interview with TMZ back in June. “There’s plenty of fights to make, I don’t know if that’s the one, but we’ll see what the landscape looks like when Conor comes back. I’m just saying after his last interview, his last fight, Conor’s ranked No. 8, he’s ranked No. 5, it makes a lot of sense right now.”

It certainly made sense when Conor McGregor was a lightweight fighter looking to fight lightweight opponents. But McGregor announced way back in March that he intended to return and fight for the welterweight title, and the weight he’s been putting on backs that plan up. The UFC could still have him fight Chandler at 170, but the match-up starts looking a little forced when you’re forcing one fighter up a weight class.

It’s also worth noting that “The Notorious” only has two fights left on his current UFC contract. If the promotion doesn’t put him in a position to win a third title in that time, does he even stick around? The UFC may be the best place for McGregor to ply his trade, but it’s not the best place for him to make a lot of money, fast. Keeping Conor happy is going to be a key element in the UFC’s handling of their Irish sports star over the next year. His effect on the bottom line of ESPN’s streaming service demands it.

Wrangling difficult athletes and making deals is a big part of Dana White’s job, but the UFC president admitted he didn’t see himself doing it forever. The other news item from the ESPN interview: that White “is not retiring anytime soon but can see the light at the end of the tunnel.” So don’t expect to see him still hanging around backstage at age 91 like Bob Arum, possibly stopping a 72 year old McGregor from throwing stuff at the younger athletes.