It was a scorching-hot summer day in Las Vegas on July 10, 2021, when temperatures soared to a record 117 degrees. Conor McGregor headlined UFC 264 against Dustin Poirier that night at T-Mobile Arena, looking to win the rubber match of an unlikely trilogy. The buzz for the fight was enormous, just like with all McGregor fights. How would the UFC’s biggest star respond after losing to Poirier six months earlier? Was he the same fighter who’d captivated the MMA world before he made his millions?
Things didn’t work out that night for the UFC’s biggest draw, who came into the bout as a slight underdog and left with his leg snapped in two. Just before the end of the first round, after landing what looked like an ordinary leg kick, McGregor stepped back on his left leg and realized it was flesh-toned jelly. Down he went, in a heap of disbelief, anger, pain, and frustration, as Poirier finished the round by ramming left hands into his forehead. As doctors attended to the fuming Irishman sitting with his back to the cage, the fight world muttered the exact same words all at the same time, which we’ll acronymize here:
At first, the speculation was that McGregor would be out for around a year. Optimists even wondered whether he might be able to return a little sooner. After all, he still had an ounce of that “Mystic Mac” in him, right? If anybody could do it, he could. There were updates early and often. Promises. Declarations. Vows. Callouts. Then misdemeanors. Incidents. Allegations. And more callouts.
Flirtations. Court appearances. Yachts. Nightclubs. At one point McGregor hospitalized the Miami Heat’s mascot during halftime of an NBA Finals game, demonstrating (in the most bizarre way possible) that he still had power in his left hand.
Things began to grow a little more abstract as time went on. A year became 18 months, and 18 months sagged into two years. Thirty-two UFC pay-per-views came and went, with 20 UFC titles and four interim titles changing hands. Meanwhile, McGregor was a coach on Season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter over the summer, with plans to fight rival coach Michael Chandler at some point, which got people excited, but now … well, 2023 rolled right by and only at the very end did we get a Conor McGregor date on the books.
So what the hell has he been up to? Will he ever come back?
With some heavy lifting by The Ringer MMA Show’s own Irishman, Petesy Carroll, we created a timeline of McGregor’s seemingly endless absence since his last fight on that fateful night back in the summer of 2021.
July 11, 2021: McGregor undergoes surgery
McGregor has an operation to repair his fractured tibia, then tweets to the world “onwards and upwards we go,” with a reassuring video message to his faithful. The gist? Six weeks on some crutches, and he’ll be right there on the road back to the Octagon. And, oh yes, a little message to Poirier that his victory was illegitimate, as McGregor had big plans for the next round.
August 19, 2021: Off comes the boot
Less than six weeks into rehab, McGregor says that he’s well ahead of schedule and back on the bike. The boot has already come off, and nobody heals faster than the Irish double champ.
September 12, 2021: The Machine Gun Kelly scuffle
McGregor gets into an altercation with rapper/rocker Machine Gun Kelly while attending the MTV VMAs. It didn’t look like much, but it’s a reminder that when McGregor hits a scene, the tabloid media battles for position like Bill Laimbeer in the paint. It was also a reminder that McGregor is oftentimes more visible when he’s away from fighting than when he’s actually taking off his shoes to compete. Just go back and look at the year he spent rehabbing a torn ACL after beating Max Holloway in 2013, in which he started beef with every featherweight within a 5,000-mile radius. He was more relevant when he returned than ever before.
September 21, 2021: Just a bit outside
On a visit to historic Wrigley Field in Chicago, McGregor throws out the ceremonial first pitch at a Cubs game while decked to the nines in a sharp suit. Notably, he plants his left leg into the rubber when he takes the mound, which is encouraging. Also notable, the pitch itself soared 30 feet beyond the catcher’s mitt, hitting the brick façade of the backstop. The pitch makes Roseanne’s slaughtering of the national anthem back in the day feel downright acceptable as far as baseball’s pregame festivities go.
October 17, 2021: Makes the DJ spin
An Italian DJ named Francesco Facchinetti claims that McGregor straight-up coldcocked him for no good reason at a club in Rome. McGregor was in Italy to have his 5-month-old son baptized at the Vatican.
October 22, 2021: Conor’s looking jacked
As Conor continues to rehab his injured leg, he begins pumping some serious iron and transforming into a kind of Irish Hulk. People are noticing, and one fan on Twitter even goes so far as to question why he’d add that kind of muscle to his frame.
McGregor responds in kind.
“There are pros and cons to everything,” he writes. “I could not move the last 3 months, so I brought heavy weights to me and moved them. Repetitively. Play with the cards you are dealt. My power is up over 50%.”
November 22, 2021: A declaration
As Conor has always been a deft hand at posting messages on Twitter, only to delete them just as quickly, he lets one fly announcing his intentions. “Hi lads, here goes,” he wrote. “Clicks and the like. Your boss and whatnot. The Mac. Santy Claus. I’m facing whoever the fuck has the LW title next. Deal with it. Take off your goggles and mark the trilogy ‘unfinished.’ Deal with that too. The rest mentioned, after this. Deal. With It.”
Everyone deals with it in their own way.
Dana White agrees with Conor, even if the tweet is deleted.
December 3, 2021: “190lbs of granite”
Conor posts a series of pictures of himself looking completely yoked, with a nice balance of shadowplay for maximum impact. On one of the posts he includes a tetraptych of photos to pound home the point that he ain’t fucking around.
“190lbs of granite. @McGregorFast,” he writes. He said the month prior that he is targeting April as the month when he can begin full-on MMA sparring. April? That’s not that far off! Conor’s about to come galloping back into that Octagon soon.
March 6, 2022: Conor’s swole-ness called out
For the longest time, Dana White would shoot down the possibility of Conor fighting the original BMF champion, Jorge Masvidal, claiming that McGregor was far too small. Well, that was then and this is now.
When Masvidal’s manager runs into McGregor out in Ireland, he notices just how big the Irishman has become.
“I saw McGregor in Dublin. He’s not small,” Malki Kawa writes. “He looked like he walks around at 195-200lbs, jacked.”
March 18, 2022: Kamaru Usman in the crosshairs
The rehab has apparently given Conor some perspective and time to re-evaluate the fight scene, and—with the added bulk—he circles UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman as his next opponent upon his return. Having already won the featherweight and lightweight titles, McGregor says, why not obtain the triple crown?
“I feel confident against Usman, a jab-happy, slumpy, orthodox wrestler with no submissions whatsoever,” he says. Now people are anticipating that whenever McGregor comes back, it’ll be at welterweight.
March 22, 2022: Popped in Palmerstown
Driving infractions were a regular theme throughout McGregor’s Forbes list boom period, so getting cited in Palmerstown for dangerous driving barely registers on the ledger of high offenses. Still, the Irish police seize his €170K Bentley and haul him in, and give him a court date to appear in Blanchardstown, where two weeks later …
April 7, 2022: Charged with dangerous driving
… the “Notorious” one is charged with two counts of dangerous driving. Much like Jon Jones’s litany of traffic violations, this latest road episode has people wondering whether driving super-expensive, exceedingly fast cars is perhaps not in Conor McGregor’s best interest.
April 29, 2022: McGregor goes big, via water
So what does Conor do? He buys a fucking Lamborghini yacht! Picked it up in Monaco for a cool $3.5 million. Who needs roads when you have the glistening Mediterranean Sea? It is called … “The Supercar of the Sea!”
Conor McGregor took his $3.5 million Lamborghini yacht to this year's Monaco Grand Prix.— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) May 27, 2023
• 4,000 horsepower
• 70-mph top speed
The yacht is 1 of only 63 made, and McGregor received #12 in honor of his Proper 12 whiskey. pic.twitter.com/wmA0YDKoYZ
As a side note, this development all but confirms to the diehard MMA fan that when we next see McGregor in the Octagon, it’ll be as a stuffed-to-the-gills welterweight. He caters the yacht with plenty of cheeses and breads and bottles of high-end spirits.
As another side note, it is easy to remember at this point that McGregor had sold his majority stake in his Proper No. Twelve whiskey brand for nine figures a little over a year earlier. Never had the old quote from Marvin Hagler been revisited as frequently as it was by MMA fans in April 2022: “It’s tough to get out of bed to do roadwork at 5 a.m. when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.”
May 8, 2022: McGregor (sort of) accepts Chandler’s challenge
In response to Michael Chandler’s impassioned callout to face McGregor at 170 pounds after knocking Tony Ferguson out, McGregor accepts the challenge like a perfect gentleman.
“I’d have a nice knock off this guy, no doubt about it,” he tweets. “A firework spectacle. I like the 170 shout also. Tipped him over. I’m definitely game to fight this guy at some stage in my career. I see it happening after tonight. Congrats on a solid win Michael and another barnstormer.”
May 11, 2022: McGregor’s star begins to dwindle
A year after topping the Forbes top 10 list for richest athletes, McGregor quietly drops off the list completely.
July 6, 2022: In search of new beef
Nearly a year after breaking his leg, McGregor finds himself in a back-and-forth with the highly regarded Azerbaijani lightweight striker Rafael Fiziev. Fiziev invites McGregor to come hang at Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket and train a little bit, which prompts Conor to pick another fight.
“No bother pal, sound,” he writes. “Think of me as Tiger Woods with a 12 iron and your nose as the golf ball. And think of me sprinting for it with a running switch kick and fuck your little head bend back. You little bend back nobody bitch. Oh you bend over, wow, that’s awesome. Congrats pal haha.”
Interpreting the tweet is the game within the game, and it’s definitely an interesting new beef, yet most people’s response to it is: “???”
August 3, 2022: McGregor’s attention shifts to … acting?
It is announced that Conor McGregor will make his acting debut in a reboot of the 1989 movie Road House, this time starring Jake Gyllenhaal.
This is somewhat surprising and noteworthy for a couple of reasons.
One, Ronda Rousey was originally linked to play a role in the remake, though the plans for that iteration were scotched before they got to production. And two, what about … what about fighting? Doesn’t Conor want to do that anymore?
August 20, 2022: McGregor’s attention shifts to … Carl Froch?
That froch tick little scrawny pencil neck I’ll grab his head and twist it clean off at a 1er with my bare hands. Little Wally of a thing I’ll Slap you around you little toffee nose toss pot.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) August 20, 2022
Nothing to see here! Just Conor McGregor threatening to twist retired boxer Carl Froch’s head clean off. What else are you supposed to do with a “scrawny pencil neck,” sharpen it?
August 31, 2022: McGregor’s strangest beef yet
Leaving no stone unturned, and perhaps sensing a disturbance within the combat sports world’s inner chi, McGregor takes aim at the great Hasbulla, who has infiltrated the fight game in Conor’s absence.
September 10, 2022: A Nate Diaz trilogy?
With his old rival Nate Diaz fighting out the last match of his UFC contract and defeating Tony Ferguson at UFC 279, McGregor signals that their trilogy fight will inevitably go down at some point in the not so distant future. He is planting the seeds to conclude a record-breaking series (at UFC 196 and UFC 202) that ranks among the highest PPV cards ever.
“Congrats Nate Diaz on making it to the end of his contractual obligations with the UFC, and as a bona-fide superstar goer. An incredible feat. Fair play. Our trilogy will happen.”
(Nate will go on to fight Jake Paul in the boxing ring 11 months later).
October 22, 2022: McGregor goes after Islam Makhachev and Khabib
After watching his archenemy Khabib Nurmagomedov’s protégé Islam Makhachev win the lightweight title at UFC 280, McGregor introduces himself into the conversation.
“Nice fight, nice performance,” he writes on Twitter. “I have built all the tools to beat this style now vs b4. Experience vs. Face breaking shots from clinch and baby brain batter shots from bottom. And the rest of my repertoire yous know, Steel left leg. Cannon back hand. Wrist control.”
But this is a parlay hit for McGregor, as he follows that post up with a message for Khabib himself, who submitted McGregor at UFC 229.
“I have the system to hurt this style of fighting guys, I am telling you. Bro is a shit jocks. Fat mouth shut your mouth you done nothing tonight except go against fathers wishes and run. It’s not fathers plan completed yet, pal. You know. Your people know and they talk about you.”
It is well known that Nurmagomedov, who retired in 2020 at 29-0, had intended to carry out a wish from his late father to retire at 30-0. McGregor is lobbying for that rematch to be his 30th fight.
November 22, 2022: McGregor sued by friend
McGregor’s longtime friend, training partner, and business colleague Artem Lobov sues him over an alleged agreement and unpaid proceeds with the Proper No. Twelve brand.
November 23, 2022: McGregor eyes a return—and USADA
Perhaps the first major signal that McGregor is nearly healed and ready to resume his career is that he declares that he’ll re-enter the USADA drug testing pool, which is mandatory for all competitors to be enrolled within six months of a fight. He targets February as the month he’ll jump back in, which means … a potential August 2023 return?
November 23, 2022: Anthony Smith says what people are thinking
The eye test remains a point of contention throughout McGregor’s drawn-out recovery process, and the fact that he now rips t-shirts off his chest by flexing his pectoral muscles gets people talking. Namely, fighter-turned-podcaster Anthony Smith, who insinuates what a lot of people have been muttering about since Conor started posting pics of himself looking like a circus strongman.
“He’s looking jacked as shit,” Smith says on his Believe You Me podcast. “You keep seeing videos of him flexing in front of mirrors and screaming and he’s huge. He healed really fast. Like, really fast …”
This prompts Conor to fire back on Twitter.
“The audacity of this loser! @LionHeartaSmith you’re a loser. The % of the bones joining back after a break like this is so low. You think I give a fuck about anything else. I am the most tested fighter all time in combat sport. I give everything to this game. You—nothing!”
And furthermore …
“Everything was fully disclosed before I began,” Conor writes in a follow-up tweet. “The state of allowance for athletes to recover from injuries as horrific as the one I overcame must be assessed. My thoughts are with Weidman and Anderson Silva. The 3 of us, and only us, know the severity of this injury.”
Wait, what was disclosed? What is USADA on board with? The world will be left to speculate, as McGregor doesn’t elaborate.
November 29, 2022: McGregor tries to “settle” out of court
McGregor invites Lobov to meet him in the gym for a fight, to settle any and all disputes the old-fashioned way
December 3, 2022: McGregor settles in court
Four years after throwing a dolly at a bus window in the bowels of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn—a throw targeting Khabib Nurmagomedov—McGregor settles a lawsuit in the Kings County Supreme Court with fellow fighter Michael Chiesa, who suffered injuries from the broken glass. The details of the settlement aren’t made public, but one of the most infamous—and widely known—incidents in McGregor’s career is now behind him.
December 5, 2022: Conor wants a fourth piece of Poirier
Conor kicks back up the feud with ol’ “scruffy knickers” himself, Dustin Poirier, casually telling him “I’m sending you off this earth” in a Twitter exchange. Between Makhachev, Hasbulla, Khabib, Carl Froch, Fiziev, Usman, Diaz, Chandler, the Italian DJ, and Poirier, McGregor’s dance card is filling up faster than the songs can play.
December 12, 2022: A second lawsuit
Lobov doesn’t show up to the gym, but the former friend who McGregor now calls a “rat” does file a second lawsuit against McGregor in the dispute over the Proper No. Twelve sale.
January 11, 2023: McGregor’s well-timed “flu” game
McGregor misses his appointed court appearance in Ireland for dangerous driving due to the “flu.” Everybody who reports on it uses quotes on that word just like that: “flu.”
January 24, 2023: Woman says that McGregor assaulted her on his yacht
An Irish woman says that McGregor attacked her on his yacht while celebrating his 34th birthday back in July at a party in Ibiza, Spain. The details of her account are unsettling; she says that McGregor kicked her in the stomach and punched her in the face, forcing her to jump into the open water to escape.
“It was as if he was possessed,” the woman says in a statement. “I knew I had to leave the boat because I thought he was going to kill me. ... We have common friends and I have met him on a number of occasions. I can’t believe what he did to me. He is a criminal. I think he would have killed me if I hadn’t left the yacht.”
McGregor denies the woman’s account.
February 4, 2023: The McGregor comeback is on
The UFC announces that McGregor will be a coach on The Ultimate Fighter opposite Michael Chandler, in what will be reality competition show’s 31st season—with the even bigger news that McGregor and Chandler will fight at some point in 2023. The show is slated to begin airing on May 30, with the finale wrapping at UFC 292 in August. This is McGregor’s second stint on TUF, as he coached against Urijah Faber a few years earlier.
February 7, 2023: McGregor rolls out more booze
Ever the Irish whiskey baron, McGregor launches his new Irish Apple Proper No. Twelve variant.
February 23, 2023: Suit against McGregor dropped
The woman who said that McGregor had assaulted her on his yacht in Ibiza drops the civil action case against him. The Irish Mirror reports that the woman’s home in Drimnagh had been targeted twice in attacks since she filed her lawsuit.
March 15, 2023: McGregor drags his feet
Though McGregor had claimed he would enter the USADA testing pool by February, in March he is singing a different tune. During an in-studio appearance on The MMA Hour, McGregor says that there are workarounds for his case, much like at UFC 200 when Brock Lesnar was infamously granted an exemption from USADA’s (at the time) four-month requirements.
“There’s hurdles and whatnot, but we’re in constant communication [with USADA] and there’s an interview scheduled and a meeting happening and then it will be official,” he said on the show. “But the six-months thing, what they had said was two clean tests and off I go, so I assume it won’t be too long.”
Throughout much of McGregor’s career, he’s been the exception to every rule, which has pissed off his fellow fighters. It looks like the USADA thing is no different, because …
March 16, 2023: Things get even more confusing
… actually, no. USADA denies McGregor’s claims, and now nobody knows what the hell is going on with Conor’s timetable for a return. In fact, things are murkier now than ever before.
April 1, 2023: McGregor has an idea
Upon seeing his former rival José Aldo take on Jeremy Stephens in a boxing bout, McGregor has a wild idea: “Me and Aldo should box,” he tweets.
April 2, 2023: Actually, McGregor has a better idea
Upon seeing the fighter whom he famously made into a “Who the fook is that guy?” meme at a press conference in 2016 (Jeremy Stephens), McGregor has a wild idea: “Me and the who the fuck is that guy should box,” he tweets.
April 2, 2023: Paul Heyman enters the chat
McGregor threatens to break Paul Heyman’s jaw after the longtime WWE manager calls the UFC fighter a Roman Reigns wannabe on Twitter.
April 29, 2023: McGregor poses with his nude knuckles
In what had to be the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship’s most exhilarating moment, McGregor shows up to the BKFC 41 event in Broomfield, Colorado. After former UFC fighter Mike Perry wins his bout against former UFC champion Luke Rockhold, McGregor climbs into the ring and faces off with Perry, telling him, “I’d fight you, no problem.”
OK, what the hell is going on? Nobody knows, but the idea of a wild brawler like Perry fighting McGregor with naked knuckles titillates the easily titillated, and the face-off goes viral.
May 3, 2023: McGregor eyes a move to WWE?
McGregor already has designs on fights with half the UFC roster, and now here he is calling out both Paul Heyman and Roman Reigns. With the news of a merger between the UFC and WWE under the Endeavor umbrella having emerged a month earlier, McGregor’s involvement in the world of pro wrestling now taps into an entirely different section of the collective fight brain.
“SummerSlam I’ll pull in on the yacht,” Conor posted, “Roman and Paul out the bus.”
May 19, 2023: McGregor eyes Canelo Alvarez, too
At a press event at his own Black Forge restaurant in Dublin, McGregor expresses interest in a boxing match with four-division world champion Canelo Álvarez.
May 30, 2023: Now YouTube stars aren’t safe either
TUF 31 airs its first episode, and Conor … threatens YouTube star True Geordie? Actually, that shouldn’t be a question so much as a statement. Conor threatens YouTube star True Geordie.
June 10, 2023: McGregor clocks the Heat’s mascot
McGregor pops up in Miami and attends Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Heat and Nuggets. During a timeout in the third quarter, the Heat’s beloved mascot, Burnie, takes center court sporting oversized boxing gloves for a playful encounter with McGregor. Perhaps sensing danger in the exchange, McGregor blasts Burnie with a wicked left hand that drops the furry, before delivering a follow-up on his padded honker. It is later reported that the man in the Burnie costume had to be taken to the hospital for evaluation (and pain relievers).
June 14, 2023: McGregor distracts with an announcement
McGregor reveals that his fiancée, Dee Devlin, is pregnant with their fourth child, which would seem like happy news—except that some other news trickles into the news cycle that makes this news seem like a smokescreen.
June 15, 2023: A woman says that McGregor sexually assaulted her in Miami
A woman says that she was sexually assaulted by McGregor in Miami after the NBA Finals game in which he clocked the mascot.
McGregor denies the woman’s account, but obviously there’s been a disturbing history of such allegations. Before the Ibiza case, McGregor was detained after a woman said he sexually assaulted her in 2020 on the French island of Corsica, a case that was dropped eight months later. Before that case there were two other accounts of sexual assault—in 2018 and 2019—in Ireland.
McGregor denies all of the accounts.
June 30, 2023: Justin wants some?
Just a day after Justin Gaethje won the honorary BMF title with a victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 291, McGregor inserts himself into the sweepstakes to become the UFC’s “Baddest Motherfucker” by challenging Gaethje.
“Justin, I’ll slap you around,” he tweets.
And then later, “I’m the real BMF, he can fight for pennies if he wants but I want spirits, I call the shots, I’m in it to launch shots, fuck chandler, you want it call for it.”
July 18, 2023: Kicked out of Merseyside funeral
While attending his Aunt Pamela’s funeral near Liverpool, McGregor is forced to leave by his security detail after he gets upset at others in attendance. There are scant details about what happened at the scene. The Merseyside police release the following statement:
“We were called to The Saddle pub in Prenton, Wirral, at 7:50pm last night, Tuesday, 18th July, to reports of an altercation. Officers attended the pub and spoke to a number of people. Further enquiries are being carried out to establish what has taken place. At this stage no complaints have been made and nobody has been arrested.”
August 6, 2023: McGregor remembers Nate Diaz exists
Just a day after Nate Diaz loses a decision to Jake Paul in a boxing match, McGregor inserts himself into the sweepstakes to take on Diaz next.
“I’m gonna serve up your liver on a sandwich in the trilogy m8,” he tweets. “Out straight. I won’t even hit ur face. That was abysmal last night. Paul is a retard. Absolute garbage he is. Moving backwards like I was watching a fight in rewind. Holy garbage. Embarrassing stuff all around IMO.”
August 12, 2023: Never mind, he wants Michael Chandler still …
McGregor reiterates that he’ll fight Michael Chandler next, in December of 2023—even though he is not yet part of the USADA pool. He tells Gareth Davies that not only will he fight in December, but that he has a three-fight plan that he’s offering.
“Chandler next in December, and then Gaethje, BMF, and then we’ll do the Nate trilogy.”
August 12, 2023: Actually, he wants KSI
Or, failing those options, McGregor has other ideas. He expresses those ideas in the ring after the Anthony Joshua-Robert Helenius heavyweight boxing match, calling out social media star/boxer KSI in a bare-knuckle bout.
“I know your man KSI is in the crowd, yeah? He couldn’t box eggs if he worked in an egg boxing factory,” McGregor says.
Just like everyone did 25 months ago when Conor broke his leg against Poirier, the MMA crowd collectively mumbles the same thing: “WTF?”
August 20, 2023: McGregor throws in the towel on 2023
McGregor finally gives up the ghost on fighting in 2023, declaring via his Twitter feed that “they’re not gonna let me fight in December, ladies and gentlemen.”
He cited the case of Chris Weidman, who himself came back from a broken leg suffered in April 2021 and fought on August 19, 2023.
“You’ve seen Chris Weidman. Imagine what that injury is. I feel like I’m being kept from my livelihood, and I’ve been feeling this for years. I’m not going to air grievances. I’m going to buoy down and soldier on. I’m ready. I wanted an announcement for Dec. 16 [at UFC 296]. I’ve given everything. So, it’s not going to happen. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.”
August 21, 2023: McGregor reheats an old rivalry …
In an exchange on social media, McGregor and Tony Ferguson continue a long feud by firing shots at each other. “I’m gonna end you and badly. I’ve not forgot,” McGregor says.
September 9, 2023: … then tries to start a new one
This time it’s featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski in McGregor’s crosshairs, as McGregor finds himself upset with Volk’s standing as the no. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in MMA.
“That’s quick work for me,” he tweeted. “100% accuracy work. Readable. Hittable. Hurtable. I like he has this title tho we should fight at some stage…”
September 10, 2023: Sean Strickland? Sure, why not?
Shortly after Sean Strickland shocks the world (and ruins a million parlays) by taking Israel Adesanya’s UFC middleweight title, McGregor begins dreaming even bigger. He hints at a move to 185 pounds, saying “No mess, I’d fancy it.”
For those keeping track, that means that McGregor’s next fight will come against either Strickland, Diaz, Roman Reigns, Makhachev, Stephens, Aldo, Hasbulla, KSI, Khabib, Burnie, Carl Froch, Volkanovski, Canelo, Fiziev, Paul Heyman, Usman, Gaethje, Perry, the Italian DJ, Poirier, or Chandler.
As of September 2023, Chandler remains the betting favorite to get the fight. Given the six-month requirement to be involved with the USADA testing pool, the most logical return date might be in the spring of 2024, when the UFC’s most highly-anticipated PPV is set to take place: UFC 300.
October 11, 2023: McGregor re-enters the testing pool
Conor McGregor officially re-enters the USADA testing pool, signifying true intent on returning to the octagon. However, this good news hits with a startling revelation that—after eight years of using it as a third-party arbiter—the UFC announced it would be ending its partnership with USADA at the end of 2023.
USADA CEO Tyler Tygart called it an “about-face,” insinuating that the extension being discussed back in the spring to continue working with the UFC didn’t come to fruition because the UFC was playing favorites with McGregor. He also stated that the UFC was trying to make Conor exempt from drug testing.
“The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months,” Tygart said in a statement.
“Our insistence, and public insistence, that the six-month rule apply to all athletes, including Conor McGregor, be in place—that clearly upset [the UFC] and that’s what led to the about-face that they did from May. They don’t like having someone else have influence, I guess, that the rules should apply to every athlete. No athlete is above the rules. Even if you’re a publicly traded company and you might stand to make $100 million at the end of the fiscal year, or something.”
October 12, 2023: The UFC gets defensive about McGregor
The UFC holds a press conference in response to USADA’s claims, with UFC executive Jeff Novitzky calling Tygart’s claim “garbage.” UFC COO Hunter Campbell also came to the defense of both the UFC and McGregor.
“What I can categorically tell you is what USADA has put out in the last 48 hours could not be farther from the truth,” Campbell said.
“For an entity that holds themselves to have a level of honor and integrity, using [McGregor] as a media vehicle to advance a fake narrative is disturbing, disgusting, and I think they have some legitimate legal liability.”
The UFC also announces that Drug Free Sport International will become the third-party anti-doping agency it will partner with at the very beginning of 2024. Though the devil is in the details, it is clear that McGregor is at the heart of the dissolution between USADA and the UFC.
October 17, 2023: McGregor’s Miami case dropped
Due to “insufficient evidence,” the charges are dropped in McGregor’s Miami assault case. The bathroom attendant at the Kaseya Center for Game 4 of the NBA Finals said in a closeout memo that he did not “hear any signs of distress.”
Conor’s attorney, Barbara Llanes, told TMZ that they were relieved to put the episode in the rear-view mirror: “On behalf of my client, his family and his fans we are pleased this is now over.”
December 31, 2023: McGregor finally announces his next fight
After teasing us all week that he would make the long-anticipated announcement for his next fight, McGregor finally comes through before the ball drops.
“Ladies and gentlemen, a Happy New Year to you all,” he says in a video in which he’s twirling a glass of red. “I’d like to announce the return date for myself, the ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor. The greatest comeback of all time will take place in Las Vegas for International Fight Week, June 29. And the opponent, Michael Chandler. And the weight, Mr. Chandler … 185 pounds.”
Here, he roars a most devilish laugh.
And so that is it. A full 904 days after he broke his leg at UFC 264, McGregor is set to make his return. By the time he fights, it will have been 1,085 days in between the touching of gloves. Of course, six months is a long time. Anything can happen between now and then, and—as you can see if you really take a close look at this timeline—it probably will.