Rust or Ready? Analyzing Conor McGregor's performance expectations after long layoff

Conor McGregor hasn't fought since 2021, will the long layoff play a part in his performance at UFC 303?
Conor McGregor
Conor McGregor / Stacy Revere/GettyImages

Conor McGregor's return to the Octagon is confirmed with a scheduled fight on June 29 at UFC 303. Just a month ago, fans doubted if McGregor would ever make a comeback. Despite teasing a bout against Michael Chandler for over a year, even coaching against him in the last season of The Ultimate Fighter, the anticipated matchup never materialized.

Fans eagerly awaited news of McGregor's return fight against Chandler, but precise details remained undisclosed, even as the 31st season of TUF passed and time progressed. McGregor's busy schedule, which included promoting his debut film Road House and a dispute with USADA, added further obstacles to his comeback.

Chandler has been consistently teasing this fight for quite some time now, repeatedly calling out McGregor over the past year. However, as fans know, nothing is certain until UFC CEO Dana White makes an official announcement. Finally, fans received official confirmation during the post-fight press conference following UFC 300, when White announced McGregor will be headlining UFC 303.

Yet, doubts linger. The question remains whether McGregor will return to his prime form when he was an unstoppable force in the Octagon. McGregor popularized mixed martial arts like no other before him, but the uncertainty remains whether he can reclaim that level of dominance.

Looking back at McGregor's UFC career, he entered the organization in 2013 as a featherweight competitor and swiftly rose to prominence with a knockout victory over Marcus Brimage. McGregor's dominance continued as he secured victories against formidable opponents such as Max Holloway, Diego Brandao, Dustin Poirier, Dennis Siver, Chad Mendes, and Jose Aldo, establishing a seven-fight win streak. However, this streak was stopped by Nate Diaz at UFC 196 in 2016, marking McGregor's debut in the welterweight division.

In their immediate rematch at UFC 202, Conor faced Diaz once more in a welterweight bout, emerging victorious this time. In 2020, McGregor once again returned to the welterweight division to fight Daniel Cerrone, securing an impressive stoppage win. Now, after another four years, McGregor is once again venturing into the 170-pound division.

Will McGregor's leg break & long layoff prove detrimental in his return at UFC 303?

This time around, McGregor faces a new challenge after a prolonged hiatus due to a severe injury that he suffered during his trilogy fight against Poirier, similar to what Chris Weidman experienced. Weidman last year made a comeback after two years and regained his form this year with a victory. McGregor, known for his remarkable abilities in MMA, has the potential to make a triumphant return too.

We've also seen UFC icon Jon Jones make an impressive comeback after a long break, as Jones demonstrated with a notable victory against Ciryl Gane last year. However, the story wasn't the same for Henry Cejudo, who also returned after three years but is currently on a two-fight losing streak.

But McGregor's case is different. His fans anticipate nothing less than a remarkable knockout victory, reminiscent of his prime performances. Through his tweets hinting at his enduring abilities, McGregor himself must prove that he's not merely all talk, but indeed capable of delivering such feats even at this age, much like Jones did in his comeback bout.


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