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Conor McGregor comeback: UFC boss Dana White on ‘big step’, talks Tyson Fury vs. Oleksandr Usyk

O2 ARENA, LONDON – UFC president Dana White was effusive in his praise of London and expects to hold more title fights in the capital and elsewhere in England after home fighter Leon Edwards beat Kamaru Usman at UFC 286 – but said Conor McGregor will not be making his return in Ireland.

Still the most high-profile name in MMA, McGregor has been starring in UFC reality show and competition The Ultimate Fighter. He is expected to face his rival coach in the series, Michael Chandler, in what would be his first fight since breaking his leg in the final part of his trilogy with Dustin Poirier in 2021.

“Coaching The Ultimate Fighter was like a step towards coming back,” said White, adding that he had spoken to McGregor about his training on March 13.

“He was telling me that it felt good to be there again, good to be in the gym with other guys, good to train. He felt good to be in Vegas, all that stuff.

“Conor’s not ready to come back and fight tomorrow but The Ultimate Fighter was a big step in that direction in getting him back mentally and, probably, emotionally ready to start training and back to camp.”

One crucial hurdle that needs to be cleared before McGregor can fight again is the requirement for ‘The Notorious’, who has never failed a drugs test, to pass six months of doping checks with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), in common with other fighters on the roster.

“Have you ever heard of Jeff Novitzky?” asked White, deferring to the UFC’s Senior Vice President of Athlete Health and Performance when he was asked about the USADA situation.

“I don’t give a s*** about any of this stuff anymore – that’s his problem. I don’t get invoved in the drug testing situation whatsoever.

“I know nothing about it and I don’t want to know nothing about it. I leave it to the expert. He’s the expert in this thing.”

MORE: Is Leon Edwards the next fighter to challenge Georges St-Pierre’s status as the 170-pound G.O.A.T.?

Irishman McGregor headlined a UFC event in Dublin in July 2014 and many fans in his homeland hope he will return there. Croke Park, which has a capacity of more than 82,000 which makes it one of the largest stadiums in Europe, would be a potential venue for the promotion.

“When Conor was a champ and a double champ, I wanted to do Croke Park so bad,” said White, revisiting McGregor’s peak between 2015 and 2017.

“Logistically, it just never worked out. We couldn’t get them to work with us. They close the subway down at a certain time that wouldn’t have worked.

“Obviously we’d love to come back to Dublin but I don’t know, we’ll see what happens. I don’t even know when he’s going to fight yet. His next fight definitely wouldn’t be in Ireland.”

McGregor could compete in Edwards’ welterweight division. “England has a world champion now and we’re going to be doing title fights more here,” said White.

“If you look at that division, there are a lot of great fights to make now if Leon’s the champ. This city has the best hotels; great restaurants; the shopping is unbelievable. Not to mention the history and everything that’s here. I’m so pumped that we’re able to do big fights here.”

One bout that seems less certain to take place is the proposed blockbuster boxing match between heavyweight champions Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

The Ukrainian has accused Fury of greed and tweeted on Saturday that “the clock is ticking” on reaching an agreement, adding: “We did everything in our power to make it happen.”

Earlier in the week, unbeaten Fury said a date of April 29 was “definitely a worker” for the bout to decide the undisputed champion and claimed he had entered training camp.

White seemed unaware and surprised that the fight had not already been arranged. “It never happened? Welcome to boxing,” he laughed.

“Is it shocking? Yes. Is it shocking? No. That is boxing: it’s just the way that sport always seems to play out. The big fights that should happen never happen and, when they do, it’s always late.

MORE: Is Tyson Fury scared of Oleksandr Usyk fight? Debating rematch clauses, purse disputes & more

“That’s the stuff that used to drive me crazy as a fan. It’s literally part of how I designed this company to not be.”

Pointing to fights between rivals with established unbeaten records during the preliminaries of UFC 286, White said: “We try to make the big fights when it’s time to make the big fights. You don’t see that stuff anywhere except here. That’s by design.”

UFC 294 will take place in Abu Dhabi on October 21. Another London card is also expected to take place in July, with more than one fighter at UFC 286 appearing to reference the planned event.

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