How did the story you wanted to tell evolve in terms of creating the storyline that you wanted to put out?

“First of all, the sport and the type of athlete and type of person is fascinating to me. This isn’t a team sport. Conor has the greatest trainers and greatest nutritionists and the greatest team, and they prepare him amazingly, but, at the end of the day, he enters that Octagon, and he’s on his own and fighting. Mixed martial arts is about two people entering into a ring and, in essence, one walks out (the winner). That’s the sport, and it’s the oldest sport in the history of man, so who are these people that do that? That always fascinated me.

“Then, you have this guy who, debate as much as you want, is one of the best fighters in the history of sport. He’s the biggest showman. I think that, as I started to get to know him ­­— we had a plan. The Mayweather fight had happened, which, you know, was technically a loss, but it was also amazing. Then, there was the Khabib fight, which, is maybe the most hyped fight to date in the UFC. There was this idea that it was going to be like, ‘OK, these two things happened, but now we’re going to see Conor 2.0, and that’s what we’re going to follow. The quote-unquote comeback.’ Then, a pandemic happened. We all say, ‘They call these things unscripted for a reason.’ Now, we adapt.

Michael Chandler Talks Fighting Conor McGregor

“You start to follow somebody, you build a relationship, you get into camp, you meet all the trainers, everyone is so invested, you get invested. I went to Dubai thinking, ‘Yeah, I want this guy to win, and this is going to be amazing.’ I will say losing raises the stakes, and the tension gets built. I’ve worked with Tom Brady a lot, and Tom always says, ‘Hey, man, it’s not the seven Super Bowls that I won that I remember the most. It’s three that I lost.’”

I know that you’ve compared him to some of the best athletes, but part of fighting is selling fights and having a personality, and nobody does that better than Conor McGregor. What was it like watching the different build-ups to his fights against Nurmagomedov, Cerrone and the two Poirier fights?

“It’s interesting because, on the one hand, the most instinctive reaction is to think it’s an act, and he is this great showman, and he knows how to sell the fights. But when you’re around him, he’s like a character actor. He does take on that persona, and it’s not just fake. I feel like I told the story a few times, but, when I was with him (at UFC 264), at that press conference where it was really venomous, I was kind of dragged off the stage with him and stuffed in this room. They’re like, ‘You got to just wait here until things settle down,’ and I was like, ‘What are you guys talking about?’ They’re like, ‘It’s not safe to be out there.’ I’m stuck in this room with Conor and one other person, and he’s just pacing in circles, just stalking like a lion. I’m like, ‘This isn’t an act. This is him, and he needs him in this moment and him in that.’ That was the persona he took on for that fight, and it was real. I don’t know if it was personal, really, but it’s what he just sort of figured out he needed to be like in this fight, and he becomes that person. It’s pretty fascinating. I was like like, ‘Holy s**t. I literally feel like I’m stuck in a cage with a tiger. I’m not going to make this guy mad.’

But, then I’ve also been in L.A. with him. He was staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel, and we were supposed to meet, and he said, ‘Do you mind if we talk while I take my kids to the park?’ I jumped in the car with them, and we got in this park near Beverly Hills, and he’s just like a dad. He’s trying to give Conor Jr. space to play on the jungle gym, but he is keeping a watchful eye because he doesn’t want him to fall and hurt himself, but he kind of wants him to fall because that’s how kids learn. They got to fall and get up, and he’s just doing that dad thing, and he’s like every other dad in the park, so you’re like, ‘Oh, right. This is this side of him. This is obviously real.’ There’s a lot of layers to the guy.”

The way you contrast the archival interviews with the footage you shot is something I found really effective. What were you kind of hoping to accomplish with that?

“We’ve been around these fighters, and he is really hard to wrangle. You’re constantly planning and then replanning, and a pandemic doesn’t help. The fact that he’s literally all over the planet doesn’t help. It’s like, ‘OK, we’re not going to get as much.’ He was always good about his training sessions, letting the camera be there and even outside the Octagon, but the closer you get to fights, the less he wants to, and you want to be careful, too, because the last thing you want to be is the distraction. The good news is there is just so much on this guy that’s been covered. I think that was one of the most interesting things. This is sort of dorky film stuff, but it’s like, how do you use the perception of who this guy is versus his own words across time? What has he been saying that’s the same but different? How do we just utilize all this in a really creative way? There is no shortage of Conor McGregor stuff, and I thought it was really interesting when you go back, and you look at something from 10 years ago, and he’s just like the nobody from Dublin, he envisioned all of this. He would talk about it back then. He manifested it, and that, in and of itself, is a great story. It’s all in the archives, and then you get to be with him and see it. It’s all come to fruition, which is interesting.”

What have you thought about the time away and how he’s stayed relevant as he prepares to come back and a The Ultimate Fighter premieres in about a week-and-a-half?

“I think he’s fascinating. I also think he’s (only) 34 years old. When you think about what has happened, it feels like overnight. That’s just like the success in the Octagon, but everything that’s because of that – the fame, the fortune — I think he’s one of the most iconic people, certainly athletes, on the planet.