Is Conor McGregor still the UFC lightweight champion or was he stripped of his title? Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov will headline UFC 223 in Brooklyn on April 7, with the Lightweight Championship on the line, so the status of McGregor’s reign is not clear.
The UFC hopes that McGregor will either commit to face the winner of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov or relinquis his title. Different betting sites will have odds for the upcoming fights, so always keep an eye on who your favorite fighter will face next.
McGregor made history on November 12, 2016, when he defeated then Lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez to become the first fighter to hold UFC titles in two different divisions, but just over 14 months later he is on the brink of losing both belts.
‘The Notorious’ was stripped of the UFC Featherweight Championship late in 2016 and last Friday’s press conference to promote UFC 222 and UFC 223 was expected to clear the air about his fate in the lightweight division.
The press conference ended and a comeback fight for McGregor was not announced, but UFC President Dana White said that the fight between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov will be for the undisputed Lightweight Championship…
So, what about McGregor? Well, last Friday Ferguson was introduced as the champion and the graphics accompanying him had him as the Lightweight champion, with no mention of him being the interim champion after submitting Kevin Lee at UFC 216 on October 7.
Strangely enough, McGregor hasn’t been stripped of his belt… yet. UFC President Dana White wasn’t clear about the subject on Friday and he tried to steer all questions away from McGregor.
“The winner of this fight will be the champion,” White said about Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov.
When asked about what that means for McGregor, he said “You will see what happens.”
Journalists pressed White for more clarity and he was short of saying McGregor no longer is the UFC Lightweight champion.
“They’re gonna fight for the title,” White answered. “This is the real title.”
“It’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division,” White added. “The division has to go on.”
Then why is the UFC reluctant to strip McGregor of his lightweight title? They need Ferguson and Nurmagomedov to fight first. Both competitors have been scheduled to face each other three times before but the clash has never taken place, so the company is not willing to put all their chips behind them only to see the fight fall through again.
Besides, whether you love him or hate him, McGregor is by far UFC’s biggest star and the company needs him back. The UFC would like for him to come back sooner rather than later, but regardless of when it happens, the publicity that his return would generate, as well as the money that would be involved, forces UFC to play by his rules.
Two UFC 220 fighters had contrasting opinions about Conor McGregor’s status in the UFC. Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier said that McGregor has to be stripped of the title for the integrity of the division. He also added that McGregor is such a big star that he doesn’t need a title to sell a fight.
“I don’t think it matters really much to Conor, because I don’t think he needs a belt anymore. He’s money no matter who he fights, with or without a belt. It doesn’t really matter. But I think for the legitimacy of the sport and the spirit of competition, they really have to [strip him of the belt].”
Light heavyweight Gian Villante had a different opinion, saying that the UFC should let McGregor hold the belt indefinitely.
“Conor is great for the UFC, so you gotta somehow keep him relevant,” he said. “If he still has the UFC belt, then he’s relevant for the UFC. I think you gotta keep him relevant for as long as you can. If he decides to fight again, it should be for a championship because he had two of them for a long time. He shouldn’t be stripped of them. He’s good for the sport. He’s good for me, he’s good for the guy next to me, he’s good for all of us, because of how many eyes he brings to us. It’s not a bad thing,” he added.