Conor McGregor targets April return, relates to Alexander Volkanovski: ‘I’ve been kept from my living’

Conor McGregor finally has a firm date in mind for his UFC return.

“April,” McGregor told reporters at the Fury vs. Ngannou red carpet in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (via MMA Junkie). “They’re saying April now. I’m happy with April. I would’ve loved earlier, but I have to be — if I’m to be honest and realistic, and for my fans, I want to put in a good run, build myself back, and that’s it. It’s looking like April, mixed martial arts.”

McGregor, 35, has not competed since suffering a devastating leg injury in his trilogy bout against Dustin Poirier in July 2021.

In total, the former UFC two-division champion has fought in MMA just four times since his 2016 title win over Eddie Alvarez, sandwiching a victory over Donald Cerrone between a title loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov and back-to-back stoppage losses to Poirier.

“I’ve been kept from my living for almost three years now,” McGregor said. “Understand that. I came through what I came through. I’m sitting on an injury and a loss. Imagine what that [does]. You hear what Alexander Volkanovski said — I relate. I must return to my way of living. This is my job. So it’s beyond frustrating and hopefully we can back [in April].”

“I just want the date,” McGregor added. “My date, please. That’s it.”

Volkanovski, the UFC featherweight champion, spoke emotionally about his struggles with mental health when out of competition following his knockout loss to Islam Makhachev at UFC 294. Volkanovski said part of the reason he accepted the short-notice fight against the lightweight champ was because sitting on the sidelines “was just doing my head in” and that he “needed a fight” to keep his mind busy and give him a goal to focus on.

McGregor’s inactivity has been complicated in its own right. “The Notorious” was initially expected to fight Michael Chandler sometime in late 2023 after the pair served as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 31, however McGregor’s status with USADA proved to be a hurdle. McGregor withdrew himself from the USADA drug-testing pool following his injury and has been required to re-enter the pool for six months before being allowed to compete.

The UFC and USADA parted ways this past month, and McGregor was caught in the crossfire of the messy divorce. USADA CEO Travis Tygart stated that the partnership became “untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months,” while UFC chief business officer Hunter Campbell issued a sharp rebuke of what he called “disgusting” and “disturbing” claims by Tygart.

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. He recently submitted his first drug tests since re-entering the program. McGregor said Saturday that Chandler still “seems to be” his expected opponent, however he voiced a willingness to fight whoever the UFC wants.

More than anything else, he just wants to be on an active schedule again.

“I need to, man. If this was boxing, if I was a boxer — yes? — after my injury and the height I reached, from belts to pay-per-view numbers, they would put me back in against this guy [media member] that has never boxed before,” McGregor said. “That’s what they would do in boxing, to build me back up. But no, you get thrown to the shark’s den, the lion’s den in MMA. That’s the way it is, which is fine. But I just want to get back and get active. I want to become the best me before I call it a day, and for that to happen, for any fighter, to be the best they can be, they need consistent competition. So I am eager for that.”

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