Conor McGregor will destroy Michael Chandler in his anticipated comeback fight later this year, as long as he prepares properly, says one of the former two-weight UFC champion’s teammates and training partners.
More than 20 months after suffering a shuddering leg break in a second successive defeat to Dustin Poirier, McGregor remains the most high-profile name in MMA and is expected to return against Chandler during the second half of 2023. The two just finished taping the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter.
“If Conor trains properly and is in shape, he’ll kick the s— out of him,” Gunnar Nelson told The Sporting News. Nelson has kept in touch with McGregor and believes the Irishman could face former Bellator champion Chandler at light heavyweight.
Nelson faces Bryan Barbarena at UFC 286 on March 18, headlined by Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3 for the UFC welterweight title.
MORE: Sign up to watch the UFC 286 PPV, exclusively on ESPN+
“He’s doing Conor stuff,” Nelson explained. “He’s looking big; he’s looking very big, so I wouldn’t be surprised [at a light heavyweight fight]. We speak every now and then. Not too much, but just Instagram and stuff.”
View this post on Instagram
Colourful Icelander Nelson has had his own octagon exile, going more than two years without fighting following his defeat to Gilbert Burns in September 2019, before returning victoriously against Takashi Sato in March 2022.
The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a 2009 Pan American Games gold medalist has become known for appearing in pop videos dancing to chart hits at his Mjolnir gym in Reykjavik, where he has given his own spin on tunes, including Sia’s ‘Chandelier’, Eric Prydz’s ‘Call on Me,’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Beat It’.
“We were meant to do one last year,” he rued. “These Covid years just f—— everything up, didn’t they? I know there was one we planned, scheduled and haven’t done yet, so there should be one coming up soon. I can’t tell you which song.”
MORE: Conor McGregor’s next fight: Opponent, Ultimate Fighter role
In the meantime, Nelson has become infatuated with golf, heading to Barcelona to play a sport he finds tougher than fighting.
“I got down to 15 handicap, which is not bad,” he said. “Golf is super, super hard. In many ways, golf is a lot harder than MMA. You can be so great and then, the next f—— shot, you’re the worst player in the world. It’s mental as well, because you will go mental if you don’t keep it together.”
Nelson’s opponent at UFC 286, Barberena, is also not shy of making a show of himself, appearing for his pre-fight media duties in little more than a pair of blue dungarees and sandals. Barbarena is 3-1 in his last four fights, but is coming off a loss against Rafael dos Anjos in December.
MORE: All you need to know about UFC 286: Leon Edwards vs. Kamaru Usman 3
The southpaw is “exciting” and is “not going to try to win on points”, says Nelson, who has been training in McGregor’s home city of Dublin with Bellator welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov.
“He’s a great guy,” Nelson said of Ukrainian-born Amosov. “He doesn’t speak much English so it was a little bit hard to connect, in some ways. But we managed, and we trained a good bit together. He’s a phenomenal wrestler with a great training vibe. He’s a great training partner and super, super good, so it was awesome.”