The former Bellator lightweight champion was the favorite out of possible available options to welcome McGregor back to the octagon following a spectacular "Knockout of the Year" triumph over Tony Ferguson in May. Following his recovery from a broken leg sustained in his previous fight against Dustin Poirier, the Notorious posted training photographs, and videos to demonstrate just how far he had recovered from the catastrophic injury. He aimed to return to the cage by the end of 2022.
Days stretched into weeks, and weeks into months before Chandler identified that McGregor most likely wouldn't make a comeback until 2023. And it was obvious that the bout wouldn't take place anytime soon because the former two-division champion was getting ready to film the new Roadhouse remake in the Dominican Republic.
Chandler explained in The Fighter vs. The Writer that although there remains a doubt over the Irishman's come back, he has no issue in waiting for his wish to come true.
“Truthfully, if there was a guarantee [that] ‘this fight is happening,’ I have no problem waiting a couple extra months into January, February, even March next year,”
“But the sport of mixed martial arts, a lot changes every single day, and we’re also talking about the biggest combat sports icon on the planet.
“There’s rumors out there of him fighting Floyd Mayweather. There’s rumors of him never coming back. There’s rumors of him coming back before the end of the year. We don’t know when Conor’s coming back, so with that level of uncertainty, it would be really foolish to hitch your wagon to that fight.”
Chandler has often expressed his desire to face McGregor before calling it a day in his tenure. But it just doesn't make sense to have him sit out for months while still trying to win UFC gold. Instead, a crucial Lightweight matchup between Chandler and the former interim champion, Dustin Poirier, will now take place at UFC 281, which will take place on November 12, 2022, in New York City. There will be three rounds in the fight.
All of that is not to say that Chandler won't eventually face McGregor, but as long as he stays, his main focus is on winning the 155-pound championship, that battle may have to wait.
“Do I want that fight [with Conor]? Of course,” Chandler said. “Do I think that fight is going to happen eventually? Absolutely. But still, my No. 1 goal isn’t to fight Conor — it’s the win the title.
“My No. 1 goal is to be UFC champion. To be the No. 1 guy on the entire planet. I’ve got to get through somebody else in the top five, get another win under my belt and then go fight Charles [Oliveira] or Islam [Makhachev], whoever wins that fight in October, probably in the first quarter of next year. I’ll be your champion in March, April, May of next year.”
Chandler still values winning a UFC championship more than the glory and monetary gain that come with the McGregor clash. Since the first day he committed to MMA after his college wrestling career, it has been his goal so he could dedicate it to his family and loved ones who have sacrificed for him to get him there where he is now. He wants to repay his fans who have supported him throughout his career.