This week lightweight Michael Chandler challenged Conor McGregor to a slam dunk in 2023.
The Irish forward is expected to return to the UFC’s Octagon tournament around International Fight Week, which usually takes place in the first week of July at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
It will be McGregor’s first match in the two years he spent recovering from a broken leg during a disastrous defeat by Dustin Poirier in 2021, when he gave a disjointed cry before being taken to hospital.
UFC President Dana White expected McGregor to return to the final fight sooner. But the 34-year-old has a busy schedule and has been filming the ‘Roadhouse’ remake, which is set to be released in 2023.
With his calendar set to free up in the new year, the fighters are starting to line up to be his opponent in the comeback with McGregor’s return likely to be a hot ticket at the gate and at the box office.
One athlete who wants to be at the front of the line is Chandler.
“I think this is the fight that needs to be fought,” Chandler recently told ESPN just days after losing a back-and-forth war against Poirier at UFC 281 earlier this month.
Despite the defeat to Poirier, Chandler lived up to his reputation as one of the most exciting fighters in the UFC as he hooked Poirier to fish and spit blood on his opponent’s face, only to lose via submission in the third round.
The stakes will be high in the McGregor vs. Chandler bout at 155 pounds, as both fighters will enter the ring looking to bounce back from the loss.
If McGregor fought Chandler, he would ignore the advice Mike Tyson gave him
But if McGregor accepts Chandler’s challenge, he will sidestep the friendly advice heavyweight boxing legend Mike Tyson gave him earlier this year.
Speaking in June, Tyson said McGregor should get some fights in the UFC so he can regain his confidence after a six-year stint in which he scored one notable win.
“After defeat, you have to do a few fights to get your feet wet,” the former world heavyweight champion boxer said on “The Fight Card” podcast.
“Connor, I think you should build up your confidence and start doing what you do: winning sensationally.”
It’s unclear who Tyson – an MMA fan – had in mind when suggesting he fight Jimmy for McGregor. But Chandler definitely wouldn’t fit that bill.
Chandler finished Dan Hooker in his UFC debut in 2021, lost a UFC title fight to Charles Oliveira in his second bout, and was mentored by Justin Gaethje that same year.
In 2022, he rebounded with a knockout win over Tony Ferguson when he rearranged the veteran MMA fighter’s face with a front kick, before falling a submission loss to Poirier.
McGregor could do better if he rusts out against the #15 ranked lightweight in the UFC
Chandler was fifth at 155 pounds and sixth overall when it included champion Islam Makhachev.
If McGregor follows Tyson’s advice, he’ll have to look much lower for an easier opponent.
Ferguson, ranked No. 15 – just one place behind McGregor in 14th – could be the type that his opponent Tyson had in mind.
Ferguson, like McGregor, is chasing a meaningful win after a string of losses.
Such a bout could be described as a win-or-go-home type event and still takes place at next summer’s International Fight Week.