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UFC news, rumors: Chandler doesn’t blame McGregor for delay; Fighters concerned for Harrison’s big weight cut

It’s been 11 months since Michael Chandler vs. Conor McGregor was first teased by UFC CEO Dana White. The fight is no closer to being official one year later and fan enthusiasm has waned. Count Chandler among those frustrated by the delays.

Chandler and McGregor were announced as coaches for “The Ultimate Fighter” revival last year under the pretense they would fight each other, but there is still no end in sight. McGregor claimed the fight would take place at UFC International Fight Week in June, but White later denied it. The two athletes have poked at each other in the media but Chandler did not blame McGregor for the delay.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say there weren’t moments of frustration,” Chandler told MMA Fighting. “Moments of, ‘Screw it, fight somebody else!’ That’s what everybody was saying I should do for months now. But I signed my name to this contract and made this commitment. I want to fight Conor. He wants to fight me. It’s just not on everybody’s timeline.”

Chandler continues to hold out for the fight. It’s the longest layoff of his 15-year career with his last appearance coming in a losing  effort to Dustin Poirier via submission in November 2022. It’s a steep decline in activity considering he averaged one UFC fight every four to five months after signing with the promotion in late 2020. Fewer fights mean less income but the potential payday involved in a McGregor fight likely justifies Chandler’s patience.

“We didn’t win any fights, we didn’t get our hand raised. Heck, we didn’t even make any fight paychecks,” Chandler said. “But I’ve been blessed with great people around me and a great passion for life. This last year has exacerbated that. This hiatus has been well-needed, truthfully. It’s just going to set me up for a huge, huge stage in 2024.”

Chandler sees silver linings in the delay. The former UFC lightweight title challenger and Bellator champion said his professional and personal lives have benefited from the break.

“Having a year off now, letting my body heal, not taking damage,” Chandler said. “Spending time with my family, enjoying the holidays. I’ve missed so many holidays, so many birthday parties, so many things and big events.

“You put me on ice for a year, I’m not going to just be sitting on my hands. So we’ve continued to work on my body, my mind and my soul, and my spirit as an athlete.”

More UFC news, rumors

Holly Holm vs. Kayla Harrison at UFC 300 was an announcement that came out of left field. There is enthusiasm about Harrison’s debut but trepidation about her first attempt at competing at bantamweight. 

Harrison fought primarily as a lightweight in the PFL and approximately 172 pounds as an Olympic judoka. Dropping from her comfort zone of 155 pounds to 135 pounds is a tall task. Her opponent at UFC 300, a former UFC bantamweight champion, recently stated that she’ll likely turn down the fight if Harrison shows up overweight on fight week.

“I’m on the stance that you need to make weight, that’s just how it is,” Holm told MMA Fighting. “I think that her mindset should be on, ‘I’m going to make weight,’ because she took the fight at 135. So I think it’s simple. I don’t think it should be super detailed.”

If Harrison makes weight, there is additional concern about how optimally she’ll perform. Former UFC bantamweight champion Miesha Tate expects Harrison to be depleted at her new weight class.

“When I saw it was at 135, I was shocked because Kayla Harrison begged for the 155-pound division at PFL and she got it and I think she’s been great there,” Tate told SiriusXM. “She’s been tremendous. I know she’s made 145 before, but I think it was tough for her. I think 135 is going to really suck the life out of her, and it’s not the best move.

“I guess I’m speaking from personal experience, because when I went down to 125 — although I did it and I still had a pretty decent camp — I just didn’t perform at my best, and I think Kayla is just used to being such a big, strong woman, that she won’t have that on her side…”

Matt Brown, a former ranked UFC welterweight with 19 years of professional experience, is also uncomfortable with Harrison’s weight cut.

“We always talk about this doing it the right way. There’s no right way to almost kill yourself,” Brown said on “The Fighter vs. The Writer” podcast. “You’re not supposed to be that dehydrated. I know my lean body mass. I know how hydrated I am. I know all these details about my body. I’m not supposed to be 170 pounds. It’s simply not healthy for me. I would put money Kayla Harrison is not supposed to be 135 pounds.

“So no matter how perfect you do everything, those last few pounds suck horribly. You can literally do the entire thing perfect, exactly what every world class scientist tells you to do, all the research is perfect, you practiced 100 times, whatever. It will f—ing suck, period. Your body is not supposed to do what you are doing to it.”

Holm acknowledges the potential complications for Harrison at bantamweight but isn’t preparing for a weakened opponent on April 13.

“Somebody can be depleted, but somebody can be faster if they’re not carrying around extra weight too,” Holm said. “So I guess we’ll just see what happens when we get in there and we get to the fight. I don’t really know her history, I don’t think she’s ever missed weight. So I think she can be professional about it. As long as it’s not one of those things where it’s like, ‘I’ll get close enough and then hopefully still get the fight,’ nothing like that. Be professional about it and make weight and we’re ready to rock and roll.”

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