Chandler's choices: The pros and cons of continuing to wait for Conor McGregor

Friends, have you seen Michael Chandler lately? Look at him. Look into his eyes. Listen to the pain in his voice. I know he doesn’t want our sympathy — “Don’t you dare disrespect me by feeling sorry for me,” was how he put it — but come on. How can you watch these videos where he sounds like a kid with a baseball glove waiting on the curb for an absent father who’s never going to show up and not feel your heart break a little?

It’s been almost almost two years since Chandler’s last fight, but it feels like at least five. Since then he coached a season of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Conor McGregor (which also feels like half a lifetime ago) and then spent the rest of the time getting his hopes up for a fight and a payday that continues to slip through his fingers each time he reaches for it.

He even had a date circled on the calendar this time. He had a plane ticket to Dublin for the start of what promised to be a monster media tour leading up to his fight with McGregor at UFC 303. He was so close. Then McGregor pulled out with an injury, and it all melted away like a sandcastle when the tide comes in.

Now Chandler has two choices, and they are essentially the same two choices he faced while McGregor was off filming/promoting movies and dancing in nightclubs all those months. He can fight someone who is not McGregor, or he can continue to wait for his McGregor wish to come true. Both options have their pros and their cons. Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

MIAMI, FLORIDA - MARCH 09: Michael Chandler is seen in attendance during the UFC 299 event at Kaseya Center on March 09, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Michael Chandler has been looking forward to a Conor McGregor fight for so long, can he change course? (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Pro: A bird in the hand, as they say.

Con: Oh, but what could have been …

At the moment, all we really know for sure about McGregor is that he’s not fighting this June. Judging by the way UFC president Dana White has framed it, sounds like he’s not fighting any time this summer. Anything beyond that is just hope and speculation.

Chandler has to at least consider the possibility that McGregor will never fight again. The man certainly doesn’t need to. Depending on the severity of the injury and the appeal of any other future offers he might receive (there’s talk of a “Road House” sequel, just to name one possibility), McGregor could be gone anywhere from months to years. He could come back nine months from now and simply decide, you know, Chandler isn’t such an exciting opponent anymore. After all, what’s the guy done lately?

All of that is well beyond Chandler’s control. At a certain point, waiting around for McGregor starts to seem like staying home and scratching lottery tickets instead of going to work and earning a living. If he were to fight some other lightweight now, he could bank a paycheck and also (assuming he wins) stay relevant in the division. He’d just probably have to make his peace with doing it for significantly less money.

Pro: He’s already waited so long, and he’s so close.

Con: Ever heard the term “sunk-cost fallacy” before?

We don’t know the exact details of Chandler’s contract, but rumor has it he may get a share of the pay-per-view revenue for a McGregor fight. File that one under: Big If True. While McGregor may not be the fighter he once was, he’s still a superstar and probably the biggest pay-per-view draw in the sport. One fight with him is likely worth half a dozen against anyone else. But if you go out there and lose to some random UFC lightweight in the meantime (or blow a knee out in the gym while getting ready for it), that’s all the excuse McGregor needs to move on without you.

Psychologically, though, it’s extra tricky. Chandler has already waited so long. He’s sacrificed what could be some of the last best years of his career in the hopes that it would pay off in the form of a McGregor fight. If he were to give it up now, what was all that for?

Plus, didn’t he just come so very, very close? They were booked! They were in the home stretch. They say that in the brains of gambling addicts, very narrowly losing releases the same happy chemicals as actually winning. And so too with this, getting that close probably feels like you’ve basically almost made it. All that’s required is just a little more patience.

Then again, Chandler could very well be sitting here a year from now weighing those same options. We all know it’s not impossible. If you tell yourself you have to keep at a failed strategy just because you’ve already invested so much time and resources into it, sometimes all you end up with is even more wasted time and resources.

If the UFC offers Chandler even a halfway decent fight some time this summer, this is the point where he should seriously consider taking it. I realize that’s easy for me to say. I haven’t spent all these months training and dreaming and clearing space in my bank account, all in anticipation of the McGregor fight that was so clearly promised to me.

But if the only thing separating a good idea from a bad idea is the reliability of one Conor Anthony McGregor? Brother, eventually you have to realize that’s a very risky bet.