McGregor recently announced his plans to return from a break of almost three years for a fight with Michael Chandler at a June 29 UFC event. Strangely, McGregor declared that the bout will take place at middleweight, which neither he nor Chandler have competed at in the past. The UFC is yet to officially confirm the bout.
Former middleweight champion Michael Bisping spoke to co-host Anthony Smith about McGregor’s announcement on the Believe You Me podcast, where he questioned the current conditioning of “The Notorious.”
“No wonder it’s 185 because Conor McGregor’s arm—I only saw his arm—but it looked a little flabby gabby,” Bisping said. “I thought so. It looks thick, I’m not hating, but he looks a little soft there. He’s definitely bigger. Brendan Loughnane… he said he’s doing a little training with him out in Dubai, he said, ‘Yeah, he’s big. He’s at least 200 pounds.”
McGregor famously won titles in two weight classes, knocking out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds at UFC 194 to claim a featherweight belt and later moving up to lightweight to dethrone Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205. He has also fought several times at welterweight, including in his most recent bout in July 2021, when he broke his leg in a loss to longtime rival Dustin Poirier.
Middleweight will be new ground for McGregor should that actually be the division in which he fights Chandler. Bisping wonders if all of the added weight will have a negative effect on McGregor’s performance.
“He fought at 145, went up to 155, 185 that is not his optimal weight class,” Bisping said. “Granted, he’s fighting another lightweight in Michael Chandler. The problem is though is that, as I say, it’s not your optimal weight class, so they’re going to be carrying more weight. If you’re Conor—and I’m not hating on Conor and I’m really excited for the fight because he’s the most exciting guy because of the energy and the presence and the hype and the performances. Win or lose, and there’s been losses recently, they’re still big moments and the comeback is going to be something special. It really is, but I think with all that extra weight it’s going to be an issue.
“Because not only does making weight suck, but making weight also insists on discipline because you have to. If I was going to make 185 pounds, I had to do my road work, I had to follow a strict diet, I had to make sure I was getting my ass in the gym because I’m not going to make weight. You can be 185 pounds. When he fights at 145 or 155, there’s not that subconscious threat of missing weight, of not being successful, of having the big comeback, one of the greatest comebacks in the history of the sport being a failure. Having to make weight makes you disciplined. It makes you live that monk kind of lifestyle, that fighters enjoy and go through. On top of that, he’s not known for having the best cardio. When you’re carrying that extra weight, whether it’s muscle or fat, it’s going to tire you down, it’s going to slow you down, and it’s going to definitely affect your endurance.”
Smith agreed with Bisping’s assessment, noting that added weight could affect McGregor’s signature standup style.
“His footwork’s not going to be the same either,” Smith said. “He’s going to be a little more plodding and he’s going to have to be because he’s carrying the extra weight that he’s not used to carrying, so it’s a technique thing too. The techniques that he does and the way that he fights and the footwork that he fights with and the sliding in and sliding out, doing that 30 pounds heavier is different.
“He hasn’t done it at fight speed in a competition 30 pounds heavier. He’s never done that. It’s going to be different and it’s going to feel different when he’s in there, even if he convinces himself that it doesn’t.”
The other factor that Smith suggested should be considered is the broken leg that has taken McGregor out of action for over two years. McGregor’s injury left him unable to continue after the first round of his trilogy bout with Poirier and he was later diagnosed with a broken tibia.
“What impact and how bad of an impact it’s going to have, I don’t know,” Smith said. “But he’s different. I have no evidence of that, I haven’t seen anything that’s shown that he’s different, but he knows it. He can feel it, he moves different, it’s not the same. Leg injuries, knee injuries, that’s just how they are. Some are better than others… you can do good rehab and the injuries not as bad sometimes with knee ligament stuff you can get away with feeling pretty much 100 percent. Really, really wicked bone injuries, it’s never the same. There’s arthritis, new bone growth, it looks different, it feels different, it’s different.
“I don’t move the same. Now am I less than I was before? I don’t know that I would say that now, I think I’m probably pretty close to the same level, but it’s different. It changes the way I have to do some things for sure. … There’s just some different things you’re going to have to do and his is way worse than mine, so all those things are a lot different for him.”