Conor McGregor backtracks on UFC 296: ‘It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen’

Conor McGregor has acknowledged his plan to fight at UFC 296 may not materialize – but it’s not for a lack of want.

McGregor on Sunday backtracked about fighting on the Dec. 16 pay-per-view event one week after telling the MMA world he was likely to fight Michael Chandler, his opposing coach on The Ultimate Fighter 31.

“They’re not going to let me fight in December, ladies and gentleman,” McGregor said in a series of voice notes posted to X.

The messages came less than 24 hours after UFC President Dana White shot down the December time frame, targeting early next year for McGregor’s return.

Earlier this year, UFC 296 was the expected landing spot for the McGregor vs. Chandler bout. But McGregor needed to spend six months in a drug testing pool administered by the promotion’s anti-doping partner, U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and he missed the cutoff to enroll.

The UFC could, in theory, grant McGregor an exemption from the six-month window. It did once when Brock Lesnar returned from retirement to fight at UFC 200. The former heavyweight champ subsequently failed a drug test and was suspended for one year in a big embarrassment for the UFC and USADA.

In his message, McGregor hoped for help from the Nevada Athletic Commission, which regulates combat sports in the UFC’s home state of Nevada. But he forgot – or didn’t know – that the regulator who previously helped him get a boxing license – Bob Bennett – retired from the commission in 2021.

“I’m ready, yeah,” McGregor said. “I want in. I wanted the announcement, Dec. 16. I’ve given everything. It’s not going to happen. It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen. I thought we [confirmed it], but turns out, maybe it’s not so much. I don’t know.

“But anyway, I hold the power, and I’m going to keep doing my thing, I’m in a great spot, and I’ll see you all soon. F****** early next year, hopefully. [Endeavor executive] Ari [Emanuel], my man, I’m ready, Dec. 16, I’m ready. anyone who wants to go. Dec. 16 I’m ready, anyone who wants to go.

“The Nevada Athletic Commission, Bob Bennett retired, may he un-retire. I go, ring [former NAC Executive Director] Bob Bennett. Tell him what’s the story, because I’m being kept from my livelihood here, and it turns out Bob Bennett is retired. I’m like, what the f***, I’ve been on top of this game for a long time. I’m top of his yacht, I’m on top of this game f****** long, yeah.”

White named Chandler as the next opponent for McGregor after the former two-division champ called out Justin Gaethje following Gaethje’s knockout of his three-time rival Dustin Poirier. McGregor targeted Chandler, Gaethje and a trilogy with his two-time opponent Nate Diaz for his next three fights.

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