The Ultimate Fighting Championship has tired of waiting for UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor to make up his mind about a return.
It has already been 14 months since McGregor last set foot in the Octagon, when he took the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in New York. UFC president Dana White has said that McGregor is thinking of waiting until September before he returns. The UFC will not wait that long. White indicated that if McGregor wanted to wait until then, he would have to give up the belt.
While McGregor is still mulling his return and negotiating a new deal with company brass, UFC officials moved forward in the division and booked a bout between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and undefeated contender Khabib Nurmagomedov to headline UFC 223 in April in Brooklyn, N.Y.
One curiosity surrounds the bout, however; will it be for Ferguson’s interim title or the undisputed belt that McGregor currently holds? When announcing the fight, UFC officials left out that detail.
Even McGregor’s longtime coach, John Kavanagh, doesn’t know what the deal is, although he is waiting for a Friday press conference, like the rest of us, to hear how that matter is addressed.
“I see there is a press conference that will happen. I think Tony and Khabib, or else just Khabib, is being interviewed about the fight that Dana announced in April, which was news to me as well. Maybe they’re going to say it at that. Is it an interim title fight or is it a belt fight? I don’t know,” said Kavanagh in a Facebook Live interview.
Regardless of what the UFC decides, Kavanagh doesn’t think it will make much difference in the minds of fans or Ferguson and Nurmagomedov.
“I think regardless of what way it’s sold, I think it’s still going to be known who the champion is. I know that’s going to upset a lot of people, but there you go, that’s my opinion on it. If it happens that (Ferguson and Nurmagomedov) fight each other, and if it happens for the belt, they’re both going to think to themselves, ‘I’ve got to beat Conor to be really seen as the champion.'”
That may or may not be true.
McGregor at one time held the UFC featherweight championship. In fact, he became the first UFC fighter to hold two divisional titles at the same time when he then won the lightweight belt. He was forced to relinquish the featherweight title, however, and now Max Holloway is rolling over that division.
Surely, many will still argue that McGregor is the rightful champion of the division given that he never lost the belt and he holds a decision victory over Holloway in the past, but Holloway is still regarded as the legitimate UFC featherweight champion.
As acclaimed as his run-up to winning UFC championships in two different divisions is, McGregor also holds the distinction of having yet to defend a title.