UFC matchmakers seem to be looking for a different opponent for Conor McGregor’s next fight after it was revealed on Monday that Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier hasn’t yet agreed to financial terms for the proposed January 23 showdown. On the following day, recently signed ex-Bellator champ Michael Chandler offered to step into the fight to face McGregor.
Chandler posted, “Looks like Dustin and Tony are the ones holding up contracts. I’m ready to sign when you are @thenotoriousmma @magllc@paradigmsports”.
Chandler, 34, perhaps also implied in his social media post that UFC matchmakers were having a tough time getting ex-UFC interim champ Tony Ferguson on board with the financial terms for his next fight, which is presumed by some to be Chandler.
So Chandler wants himself and McGregor to drop their other options and fight each other instead.
That would make the known possibilities for McGregor’s UFC return on January 23 to be Poirier, Justin Gaethje and Chandler.
Of course, Chandler has added himself to that group, though the American at least said he’s ready and willing to sign on the dotted line just as soon as the UFC sends over a contract.
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UFC ‘Willing to Replace’ Poirier
On Monday, ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported for ESPN that his UFC sources were saying “Poirier remains a hurdle” in making the McGregor vs. Poirier rematch happen, and that “the UFC has said it would be willing to replace Poirier with Gaethje or (even another fighter)” in the proposed showdown.
Gaethje is coming off a second-round submission loss to UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 on October 24, but the 31-year-old American remains the top-ranked 155-pound contender in the UFC’s official rankings.
Those same rankings, by the way, still list Nurmagomedov as the lightweight division’s champion even though the Russian dynamo retired in the cage after his last fight.
UFC president Dana White seems to hope the undefeated champ will feel in the future that he rushed an emotional decision about the matter and will decide to come back to fight again at least one more time.
That leaves a slim hope that Khabib vs. McGregor 2 is still on the table. Their first fight, a fourth-round submission win for Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October 2018, was the best-selling UFC pay-per-view event in history.
The coveted rematch could break box-office records again, especially if McGregor defeats a top-ranked contender on the way there to prove he deserves next crack at Nurmagomedov.
Ranking McGregor’s Options for January 23
But who will McGregor end up fighting on January 23?
The smart money probably remains on Poirier. While No. 2-ranked Poirier isn’t ranked as high in the division as No. 1-ranked Gaethje and doesn’t have the fresh appeal of a 3-time Bellator champ like Chandler who will be making his first appearance as a UFC fighter, Poirier remains a fan-favorite who already shares past history with McGregor.
Moreover, Poirer is coming off a win over Dan “The Hangman” Hooker in a Fight of the Year candidate and has already publically announced the fight with McGregor as his next enterprise.
Negotiations might be taking longer than most people expected they would, but Poirier still seems to have a decent chance at landing the megafight rematch.
Of course, if the fight does fall through over money, guys like Gaethje and Chandler would certainly jump at the chance to face the UFC’s biggest superstar.
Looks Like Chandler Will Wait for McGregor
It looks like Chandler will have to wait for his shot at McGregor.
Just a few hours after this story published, reports surfaced that McGregor’s fight against Poirier was “officially booked” for January 23.
So Chandler now hopes to land a fight against Ferguson.
But Chandler will likely remain ready to face McGregor should the opportunity somehow arise again soon.
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