Whether you are a hardcore fan of octagon action or a casual combat sport enjoyer, there is no doubt that you know who Conor McGregor is. The first ever two-weight UFC champion, McGregor is the biggest draw in the history of the sport of MMA. This is accented by the fact that eight of the top 10 biggest selling UFC PPVs of all time were headlined by ‘The Notorious’. His legendary rivalry with Khabib Nurmagomedov saw their eventual fight set the record with an incredible 2.4m PPV buys, smashing the previous record of 1.6m that was set after McGregor’s second bout with Nate Diaz in 2016.
Despite being the biggest star in MMA history, Conor has been through long periods of inactivity since becoming a pop culture icon. He has notably never entered a title fight as a defending champion, being stripped of both the featherweight and lightweight titles down to said inactivity. He has now gone nearly 18 months without a fight since his loss to Dustin Poirier in their trilogy fight in July 2021, in which he suffered a gruesome leg break.
Such an injury made many question whether that was it for McGregor, especially having lost three of his last four fights. It was clear that he would need at least a year of rehab for his injured leg and maybe his love of the fighting game had dwindled especially with his other commitments. He launched his own brand of whiskey, Proper No. Twelve, in 2018 which has become extremely successful. He has endorsement deals worth tens of millions and is now foraying into Hollywood, and it seemed that maybe MMA needed Conor McGregor more than he needed MMA.
However, his socials told another story. He has consistently used his Twitter account to comment on fights and even call out fighters from Kamaru Usman to Charles Oliveira. As he continued his rehab, it became clear that he still had that hunger to fight, and the MMA world has been coming up with scenarios tenfold. Many names were mentioned but it took a while for anything concrete to materialize. That was up until June of this year when whispers of a potential fight with fan favourite lightweight fighter Michael Chandler were made louder by UFC president Dana White who admitted he ’Really liked’ the idea of the matchup.
Chandler has quickly become a favourite amongst fans since he signed with the UFC in late 2020. A former champion in Bellator, ‘Iron’ Mike has had breathtaking fights in his two years with the promotion so far. He has earned performance/fight of the night bonuses in four out of his five matches and win or lose you know when Mike Chandler is on the card you are going to see an exhilarating level of violence. His highlight reel front kick knockout of Tony Ferguson in May 2022 is arguably the KO of the year and his battle with Justin Gaethje in 2021 was fight of the year.
Although he is a former NCAA D1 wrestler, Chandler has surprisingly shied away from grappling since coming to the UFC. He has instead opted to make his fights all out wars, his slugfest with Gaethje being the best example of this.
It is possible that a McGregor vs Chandler fight could headline one of the early PPVs in 2023, but who would be favourite should it be made? The UFC Odds currently have McGregor as a -155 favourite in a potential bout, but Chandler is not far behind as a +135 underdog. It is worth noting however that this fight would likely be at Welterweight, a weight that Chandler has not fought at since 2010 whilst Conor last fought and won at 170lbs in 2020 when he TKOd Donald Cerrone. This class is not far from either fighters natural weight though, with Chandler walking around at 190lbs and McGregor visibly gaining a lot of muscle over his rehab.
Although a fight with anyone on the roster would be a buyrate boom when it comes to McGregor, a bout against Chandler would blow the roof off. It would also be somewhat admirable of Conor to take such a dangerous fight. His previously discussed record over his last four fights is not very strong having been outclassed by Dustin Poirier twice in as many fights. Opting for a fight with an animal like Chandler is at the very least a brave decision from Conor. Although he may open as a favourite, it is very possible that Conor could add another L to his record should the fight be made.
Be it Chandler or otherwise, the MMA community eagerly awaits confirmation of Conor McGregor’s next fight.