UFC mum on status of Conor McGregor return fight amid signs of doubt

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Less than a month away from Conor McGregor’s long-awaited return fight, a canceled news conference in Dublin, a cryptic social media post from his opponent, Michael Chandler, and other worrisome signs have MMA fans worried the high-profile bout at UFC 303 could be canceled.

On Wednesday, the UFC did not respond to requests for comment from The Athletic about the status of the fight.

The silence from the promotion comes two days after a pre-fight news conference with McGregor and Chandler scheduled at 3Arena in Dublin — a 13,000-capacity arena in McGregor’s birthplace — was canceled with less than 12 hours of notice. The UFC didn’t give an official reason for the cancellation. “When we have further information on a new date and time, we will share it immediately,” the promotional company said.

“In consultation with the UFC, todays press conference was cancelled due to a series of obstacles outside of our control,” McGregor wrote on X later that day. “I apologize to my Irish fans, and fans around the world, for the inconvenience and appreciate all your passion and support. I can’t wait to put on the greatest all-time show in the Octagon.”

Since then, the UFC has not shared any promotional content about UFC 303 on either X or Instagram. and on Tuesday, Chandler shared a post that appeared to be at odds with the expectations for his preparation for the fight.

“If you’re looking for me, I’ll be out in Tennessee. No way out of the life we chose…” he said on Instagram.

Chandler, who is from Tennessee, had been training in South Florida since January. He and his team did not respond to a request for comment and McGregor and his team also did not respond to a similar query about the status of his potential return.

Even Daniel Cormier, the UFC commentator during pay-per-view events and former fighter, cast doubt on what had been expected to be the most lucrative MMA fight of the year.  On his show, “Good Guy/Bad Guy,” he called it “worrisome” that everyone he’s asked in the organization “is tight-lipped as they are right now.”

“Let me be your friend and tell you, start to brace yourself a little bit for disappointment,” Cormier told his cohost, Chael Sonnen. “I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but let me tell you something about the UFC. … You know who Dana White doesn’t like letting down? The fans. Doesn’t like letting the fans down. And when the press conference was canceled, you saw people on Twitter, people on Instagram, speaking of having their travel, being prepared to go and watch, flying over to Dublin to watch a presser. That’s disappointment.”

At least one prominent MMA insider, Ariel Helwani, said on his show “The MMA Hour” on Wednesday that there was “great positivity” for the fight to happen as planned, but that other fighters had been asked by the UFC about their ability to fill in should the bout be canceled.

McGregor has faced major questions about his physical ability to stage a comeback after breaking his left leg in a bout against Dustin Poirier in 2021, as well as his numerous social media posts that depict him partying in the fight’s lead-up.

After UFC 302 on Saturday, UFC president Dana White told reporters he wasn’t worried about McGregor’s social media presence. White then said he planned to fly to Dublin to speak with McGregor in person.

“I don’t know what’s real on the internet and not real on the internet,” said White. “Conor’s not a dumb guy. This is obviously a big fight for him. He’s calling this the best comeback in the history of sports.”

McGregor, still perhaps the UFC’s biggest star, has not won a bout since January 2020.

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(Photo: Justin Setterfield / Getty Images)

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