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Conor McGregor’s return in 2023? USADA clock winds down to final day

“Notorious” has one more day to re-enter the USADA drug testing pool if he wants to compete for UFC this year without a special exemption.

F1 Grand Prix of Monaco - Qualifying Photo by Eric Alonso/Getty Images

Will Conor McGregor fight Michael Chandler in 2023?

That’s the big question everyone is asking as the deadline nears for “The Notorious” to re-enter the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) drug testing pool in time for UFC’s last big event of the year.

UFC 296 is set to go down inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 16, 2023. For McGregor to undergo the USADA-mandated six months of random testing before returning to action, he’ll need to be back in the program by June 16, 2023. That’s just one day away, and there’s been no hint that McGregor is in any rush to slip in under the time limit.

McGregor was quietly removed from USADA’s program after suffering a bad leg-break injury against Dustin Poirier in July 2021 (see it), presumably so doctors could treat him with a variety of substances that would melt a drug testing kit. McGregor defended the move several months ago, saying critics, “would be happier if I wasn’t able to play with my children the same again.”

“The percentage of the bones joining back after a break like this is so low,” he wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “You think I give a f— about anything else. I am the most tested fighter all time in combat sport. I give everything to this game.”

The decision to leave the drug testing pool for treatment was a smart one considering McGregor still hopes to compete at the top of the sport following his devastating injury. His notable increase in muscle mass and continued absence from the program, though, is generating a lot of controversy. If he doesn’t follow the standard protocol for athletes rejoining USADA’s program, it adds an ugly narrative to what would otherwise be an inspiring comeback story.

McGregor doesn’t necessarily have to spend six months in USADA’s pool. There’s a special clause in the organization’s guidelines that allows UFC to waive the waiting period in exceptional circumstances. If they grant him an exemption, he’ll be clear to fight after two clean tests. That re-opens the possibility of McGregor vs. Chandler going down in November or December.

Heck, the fight could be booked even earlier than that, although it’s unlikely given the way the promotion’s slate of events is shaping up.

At this point, most people are assuming UFC will give “The Notorious” a pass on the six-month testing period. So, this June 15, 2023, deadline doesn’t really mean all that much. But, we are left wondering why McGregor is so reluctant to re-enter the pool and do things right.

There’s a couple obvious inferences one could make, but we’ll leave that up to you.

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