UFC Lightweight Title Status Unclear

When interim UFC Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov was first announced for UFC 223 in April, many thought the reign of current UFC Lightweight Champ Conor McGregor — 14 months and no title defenses later — was at its end. The thought was that at the press conference for the main events of UFC 222 & UFC 223, UFC President Dana White would announce McGregor was stripped of his title.

But that did not happen; instead, White was cryptic on the title’s future.

Despite Ferguson’s title being an interim one, graphics listed Ferguson as the champion (with no interim status), and White said the winner of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov would be “the champion.”

But when pressed by the media about McGregor’s fate, the UFC head gave no update on The Notorious One.

“I have no update,” White said. “The winner of this fight will be the champion…We’ll see what happens.”

McGregor won the UFC Lightweight Title at UFC 205 in November 2016, becoming the first UFC fighter to hold two division’s titles simultaneously. However, just two weeks later, McGregor was stripped of the UFC Featherweight Title — which he won in December 2015 at UFC 194 — after making no title defenses in about a year’s time.

McGregor did not compete in the UFC once in 2017; he instead focused his efforts on obtaining what would become the Money Fight — a boxing match against boxing icon Floyd Mayweather. McGregor was TKO’d in the 10th round.

McGregor has insisted he would return to the UFC eventually in 2018, potentially in August or September, but White has previously made it clear he’s unwilling to wait that long.

“I said leading into Mayweather fight, I made it pretty clear, I’ve been in this business for a very long time. When you make an obscene amount of money like that, who knows if they’ll ever come back?” White said. “Right now, with the position we’re in, Conor’s saying, ‘Maybe I’ll come back in August, maybe I’ll come back in September.’ Well, that’s almost two years. It’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division.

The division has to go on. These guys have been fighting their whole career. Everybody wants to get to that pinnacle and it’s the fair thing to do. Listen, I take so much s*** for how much I like Conor McGregor and everything else, but the division has to go on.

Ferguson became the interim champion after defeating Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC 216 last October — Ferguson’s 10th straight win. Ferguson has been the voice of the “#DefendorVacate” movement — vocal for a fight with McGregor, but insisting if McGregor doesn’t fight, the title should not be his. Ferguson went a step further at the press conference by claiming the fight between him and McGregor was on the table, but McGregor supposedly turned it down.

In Ferguson’s current win streak, he hasn’t lost since 2012 and has picked up wins over the likes of Edson Barboza and former UFC Lightweight Champ Rafael dos Anjos.

Nurmagomedov has been just as, if not more than, dominant. He returned to the Octagon at UFC 219 last month, pummeling Barboza in what was one of the most lopsided decisions in recent memory on a UFC pay-per-view. The 25-0 fighter has also previously called out McGregor on a number of occasions and claims it is he, not McGregor, who can lead the driving force of UFC eventually holding an event in Russia.

Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were scheduled to face off for the interim title at UFC 209 last March, but Nurmagomedov was forced from the bout on days’ notice after falling ill from a bad weight cut.

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