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Conor McGregor ‘eager’ to return by end of 2019, says he would have already if not for hand injury

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Former UFC two-division champion Conor McGregor says he was in talks to fight Justin Gaethje in July, but a hand injury prevented him from making his return.

Former UFC two-division champion Conor McGregor says he is anything but retired.

Some believed he may have had plans to step away from MMA when he announced his so-called retirement via Twitter in March, but McGregor told ESPN on Thursday he is “eager” to return to the UFC. McGregor has not fought since a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov in October 2018.

“I don’t think I would ever retire from this game,” McGregor said. “Never in my life. I will be fighting until the day I go out. There’s no doubt about it. It’s just the way it is. It’s in me, and I’ll take it with me to the grave.”

McGregor injured his hand in a sparring session in May, and said he would’ve had already made his return had it not been for the injury. McGregor said he was recently cleared to grapple and has already been striking and doing other forms of training.

McGregor said before the injury, he was targeting a return in July in New York at Madison Square Garden. When asked whom he would’ve fought, McGregor said “it was leaning toward (UFC lightweight contender) Justin Gaethje at the time.”

“I was on such a great trajectory. I get to these great spots, and then boom, a little slip and I have to build it up again,” McGregor said of his injury. “It’s just the life I’m in right now.

“I just want to compete. Enough is enough. Let’s get me back in the mix. It’s a forgetful business. ... It’s a crazy business we are in. But make no mistake, the skills are there for me. I know what I can bring to the table and what I will bring to the table.”

In an ideal world, McGregor’s next fight would be a rematch with Nurmagomedov, he said. Nurmagomedov is currently scheduled to face Dustin Poirier for the 155-pound title at UFC 242 on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi.

But McGregor is willing to fight anyone, because he simply wants to get back into the cage where he said he belongs. McGregor named the following fighters as options for him aside from the Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier winner: Nate Diaz, Jose Aldo, Max Holloway, Tony Ferguson, Gaethje, and Frankie Edgar.

McGregor predicted that he would fight again by the end of 2019.

“It does not matter who,” McGregor said. “It’s just about me getting back in and being who I am, not a shell of myself, not half-committed. If I had to say what I was (before the Nurmagomedov fight), I was too committed in the gym and not committed enough outside of it; the training sessions were too serious, and when I left the gym, it was gone from my mind. I would go off into the jungle. You cannot do that. you cannot be half in, especially in a game like this. And I paid the price for it.”