Michael Chandler admits to being ‘frustrated’ by Conor McGregor timeline: ‘He’s trying to wait me out’

 Team McGregor vs. Team Chandler
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Michael Chandler kicked off 2023 with the expectation that he’d fight Conor McGregor.

Now he’s ending 2023 with the first inactive year of his professional MMA career and the hopes that the McGregor fight will still materialize at some point in 2024.

“[Have I been] frustrated at times? Absolutely. Annoyed? Maybe a little bit here and there,” Chandler admitted Monday on The MMA Hour. “Because we get that rush, we love fighting, we love competing. I do train a lot so it is hard to train — even me, even being known as the guy who trains a lot and I live this life, it is hard to have your training but not have that carrot dangled in front of you and that light at the end of the tunnel of an actual date. But anybody who has seen all of my fights in the UFC thus far or even the fights before that, I’ve been extremely active over the last 15 years.

“I’ve fought extremely hard. Some very, very tough fights I’ve had since I came into the UFC, especially [since] I fought everybody inside the top five basically. Fights of the Year, Knockouts of the Year, all of those different things. So anytime I find myself being frustrated, I believe I’m always able to go back to my north star that, hey, it’s going to work out the way it’s going to, just like me coming to the UFC. That door stayed closed until it was time for that door to open. The door opening for this fight with Conor, whenever it’s finally supposed to be, it will be, and I’m just being at peace in the midst of the waiting.”

When McGregor, 35, and Chandler, 37, signed on to film The Ultimate Fighter 31 in February, the expectation was that they’d collide in a blockbuster bout in the second half of 2023. For various reasons, however, the matchup failed to come to fruition. McGregor told reporters in late October that the UFC was then targeting April for his comeback fight and voiced frustration at his long layoff. The former two-division UFC champion has not competed since suffering a devastating leg injury in his trilogy bout against Dustin Poirier in July 2021.

McGregor officially re-entered the UFC’s drug-testing pool on Oct. 8, meaning he will be eligible to compete again on April 8, 2024. An April date would put McGregor and Chandler right in line to headline the promotion’s upcoming tricentennial extravaganza, UFC 300.

Chandler teased a big announcement prior to his The MMA Hour appearance. While that announcement ended up being his partnership with Hiatus Tequila, plenty of fans and pundits speculated that it would the McGregor fight for UFC 300’s main event.

“Hey listen, nobody would like the hypothesizing to stop more than me, alright?” Chandler said. “And yes, obviously I talked about this big announcement today, and people are like, ‘OK, finally we’re going to get the Conor and Chandler fight, right?’ So I know. To anybody out there who like ticked off today, I’m sorry, but I just don’t have any information. Obviously that [UFC 300] would be a dream scenario. That’s when I would like to fight, where I would like to fight, who I would want to fight. Chandler vs. Conor is happening. I don’t have a date or a location or a UFC number for you, but it’s definitely going to happen next year.

“So we’re going to enjoy the holidays and we’re going to stay in shape, and then we go back into training camp in January and I will train my tail off until that fight happens.”

In November, McGregor’s longtime coach at SBG Ireland, John Kavanagh, told MMA Fighting that plans may have changed and the UFC was instead targeting the “summertime” of 2024 for McGregor’s return fight. Kavanagh stated that McGregor and his team were “very frustrated” by the news and questioned whether the promotion intended to hold McGregor on the sidelines until International Fight Week, which usually takes place in July. Kavanagh wondered whether UFC officials may have done so because of a belief that UFC 300 will be a big enough event without McGregor’s presence on the pay-per-view.

Chandler, however, isn’t buying what Kavanagh is selling.

“Listen, I respect Conor and I respect coach Kavanagh,” Chandler said. “We’re very cordial, right? And I don’t have to hate Conor to want to go out there and rip his head off in front of millions of people. But these guys are very good at creating their own narrative and throwing little breadcrumbs out there that are just stale as heck and not even a mouse would eat them. Alright? So just remember when they say things, maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not true. Maybe they’re saying things for the reason of just making people like yourself and all of us speculate and also [making] me speculate.

“I’ve heard it. I’ve seen Conor talk about other opponents. I’ve seen Conor talk about different dates. I’ve seen Conor talk, completely dismiss me and act like to fight with me isn’t happening. These are all ways that these guys try to get inside people’s heads. Unluckily for them, your boy’s bulletproof, alright? So we’re good. So we’re staying with the plan. We’re right where we need to be. I’ve had a year, a year-plus now to think about and visualize knocking Conor out, watching all of his tapes, seeing the training footage that’s coming out. I see that he’s training, I see that he’s coming back.

“Obviously he joined USADA, got back in the USADA testing pool. He’s not doing that unless he’s actually coming back. So he’s trying to wait me out, smoke me out, but I’m going to be waiting here, man. The greatest comeback in combat sports history, that road goes through one man — and his name is Michael Chandler.”