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19th Nov 2023

John Kavanagh provides silver lining update on Conor McGregor’s UFC return

Patrick McCarry

John Kavanagh

“I don’t know. That’s literally what we were having a bit of a back and forward [about] today.”

Conor McGregor will be nearing his 36th birthday by the time he makes his Ultimate Fighting Championship return, if all goes to plan. John Kavanagh has provided an update on that return.

The former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion is set to fight Michael Chandler, who he coached against in this year’s The Ultimate Fighter show, but there have been issues upon issues setting a date.

The initial plan had been for McGregor and Chandler to meet in The Octagon at UFC 295 at Madison Square Garden, in New York. That was delayed as McGregor was not back in the United States Anti-Doping Agency programme for drug-testing. USADA want fighters to provide six months of clean drug tests if they want to fight and were not shy about using McGregor’s name, in the media, holding to those demands. As a consequence, the UFC are breaking from USADA and using another agency.

UFC 295 took place at the weekend, with Alex Pereira defeating Jiří Procházka in the main event for the light heavyweight title. It was an engaging event but it will end up with a lot less buzz, gate receipts and pay-per-view numbers than anything that would have featured Conor McGregor on the main card. It has been almost three years since McGregor last won a UFC fight but he remains one of their biggest draws, rivalled only by Jon Jones or, should she ever return, Ronda Rousey.

There had been a lot of speculation that McGregor would then headline UFC 300, next April, with former UFC champion Daniel Cormier declaring, “UFC 300 has to have a [big] name… I think you have to have a Conor McGregor versus Michael Chandler.”

However, on his Monday appearance on The MMA Hour, John Kavanagh, coach of McGregor, had some tough news for fans of ‘The Notorious’.

Conor McGregorConor McGregor pictured with coach John Kavanagh following his defeat of Jose Aldo at UFC 194. (Credit: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE)

John Kavanagh on Conor McGregor return

Back in October, Conor McGregor had been speaking of making a return in April of next year. That would line up with UFC 300, but John Kavanagh has poured water on that notion.

“We were hoping for April,” he told Ariel Helwani, on The MMA Hour. “That was the hope. That was what we were told. And now it seems to be the summertime.

“I don’t know. That’s literally what we were having a bit of a back and forward [about] today.”

McGregor re-entered the USADA drug testing pool on October 8 but the UFC may have plans for a big summer bout in Las Vegas to herald his big return. His last fight was against Dustin Poirier in July 2021, when he broke his leg. That fight was awarded to Poirier as a doctor’s stoppage.

Kavanagh was asked by Helwani if he had concerns over McGregor’s mental health being affected by the delay in his return. He replied:

“Well, I was too, I’m not going to lie. But hearing him today, he’s out there finding this great group of training partners… at least he’s doing that. It’s not quite the same as getting in to compete in front of a large crowd, but at least he’s getting training in, and that’s so important. We heard Volk [Alexander Volkanovski] talk about that, ‘Keep me busy,’ and all that. So I love to hear that he’s training hard with these guys.

“But look, and this is what I was saying to him as well, ‘Yeah, OK, it’s a knock back if we’re hearing it was April but now it’s July, but it’s not the end of the world. It is an extra couple of months. It’s not great. But hey, you’re enjoying your training at the moment. Let’s just keep that going’.

“But the sport, you are around for such a short time as compared to… well, I’m not going to try to make a comparison to other sports or whatever, but like our careers, we can do this for decades. For fighters, is a short time.”

On the plus side, Kavanagh said Conor McGregor would look to fight in 2024, even if he does have to wait until summer to fight.

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