CONOR MCGREGOR has finally reentered the USADA testing pool.
But the Irishman may not have to wait the customary six months before returning to action.
McGregor, 35, reentered the testing pool on October 8, as confirmed by USADA themselves.
This would ordinarily see him in line to be eligible to return in mid-April, right around the time Dana White is expected to book a blockbuster card for UFC 300.
Protocol could change, however, with USADA revealing that the UFC have opted against renewing their contract.
This means that as of January 1, the two organisations will not be working together.
In a strong statement, USADA revealed: “We can confirm that Conor McGregor has re-entered the USADA testing pool as of Sunday, October 8, 2023.
“We have been clear and firm with the UFC that there should be no exception given by the UFC for McGregor to fight until he has returned two negative tests and been in the pool for at least six months.
“The rules also allow USADA to keep someone in the testing pool longer before competing based on their declarations upon entry in the pool and testing results.
“Unfortunately, we do not currently know whether the UFC will ultimately honour the six-month or longer requirement because, as of January 1, 2024, USADA will no longer be involved with the UFC Anti-Doping Program.
“Despite a positive and productive meeting about a contract renewal in May 2023, the UFC did an about-face and informed USADA on Monday, October 9, that it was going in a different direction.
“We are disappointed for UFC athletes, who are independent contractors who rely on our independent, gold-standard global program to protect their rights to a clean, safe, and fair Octagon.
“The UFC’s move imperils the immense progress made within the sport under USADA’s leadership.
“The relationship between USADA and UFC became untenable given the statements made by UFC leaders and others questioning USADA’s principled stance that McGregor not be allowed to fight without being in the testing pool for at least six months.
“One UFC commentator echoed this, recently declaring that USADA should not oversee the UFC program since we held firm to the six-month rule involving McGregor, and since we do not allow fighters without an approved medical basis to use performance-enhancing drugs like experimental, unapproved peptides or testosterone for healing or injuries simply to get back in the Octagon.
“Fighters’ long-term health and safety — in addition to a fair and level playing field — are more important to USADA than short-term profits at the expense of clean athletes.
“USADA is proud of the work we’ve done over the past eight years to clean up the UFC, and we will continue to provide our unparalleled service to UFC athletes through the remainder of our current contract, which ends December 31, 2023. As always, we will continue to uphold the rights and voices of clean athletes in all sport.”
McGregor is still expected to fight Michael Chandler upon his eventual return to the octagon.
But he has also been linked with a blockbuster trilogy bout against Nate Diaz.
McGregor has won just one fight since beating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016.
His one win came against Donald Cerrone at UFC 246.
‘WE’LL PLAY IT BY EAR’
UFC CEO White was coy when asked about what the future holds for McGregor when asked on Saturday night.
The 54-year-old said: “I literally have nothing planned for Conor McGregor right now.
“The paperwork is being submitted; we’ll play it by ear and see how things play out.
“There are still a lot of things that have to happen as far as fights go, and then we’ll decide where is going to land.”
Chandler, meanwhile, remains confident that he will be McGregor’s next opponent – and has an inkling as to when the fight will finally take place.
He told Ariel Helwani during an appearance on The MMA Hour: “My heart of hearts says the biggest fight we’ve seen in a very long time has to go down on the biggest card that the UFC is going to put together since UFC 200, since UFC 100.
“My heart of hearts, my gut says we might be waiting until UFC 300. Good thing I’ve got a lot of things to keep my[self] busy.
“And I get an opportunity to train for Conor for a very long time.”
Chandler has sat out all of 2023 waiting for McGregor, having last fought Poirier in November last year – being submitted by the 34-year-old towards the end of a three-round bloodbath.