CONOR MCGREGOR's return to the octagon is looking more likely to take place in the final quarter of the year.
The Notorious is set to throw down with former three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler after a second stint coaching the Ultimate Fighter.
A date for the eagerly-anticipated barnburner, however, has yet to be announced by UFC president Dana White.
That's because McGregor has, seemingly, not re-entered the United States Anti-Doping Agency's testing pool.
The UFC's poster boy hasn't been enrolled in the pool since the end of 2021 – a year in which he suffered a horrific broken leg in his trilogy fight with Dustin Poirier.
And he must be in the pool for a minimum of SIX MONTHS in order for him to compete.
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That means, at present, the earliest he can return if he has jumped back in the testing pool is September.
But USADA's latest testing records show the Irishman has yet to provide them with any samples.
The lack of samples in the public records doesn't, however, mean McGregor is not enrolled in the pool – just that he's yet to be tested.
But it's a strong indication he may not be in the programme.
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If that's the case, a September return – which would tie in well with the end of TUF 31 – could soon be off the cards.
The UFC traditionally stages a pay-per-view card in the first week of September and are likely to again this year.
And if they're to stick to their usual September schedule, McGregor would have to be in the pool by the end of next week to feature on the card.
Former two-division champion McGregor revealed late last year that he'd be available for testing in February.
He tweeted: “I’m clear for testing in February.
"I will complete my two tests per USADA & we are booking a fight.”
McGregor's clash with Chandler will be his first outing since shattering his left leg in his Sin City series decider with Poirier.
And he's champing at the bit to throw down with the new fan favourite.
He recently told The Mirror: "[I'm] looking forward to it, looking forward to it.
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"I feel good, feel energetic, feel ready.
"I'm throwing out my high kicks faster than I'm throwing out my jab. I'm every excited."
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