A bizarre scene unfolded in Boston on Friday at a press conference to greet the main event fighters from UFC 223 as interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson will face Khabib Nurmagomedov on April 7 in Brooklyn.
During the press conference, UFC president Dana White said that the fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov would be for the undisputed lightweight championship.
By that rationale, it means the UFC has stripped current champion Conor McGregor of his title but White refused to actually say the organization has taken the belt away from him.
“It’s undisputed,” White said about the UFC 223 main event. “I said it would be. I said that the guy that wins this fight will be the champion.
“Did I say [Conor McGregor’s] been stripped of the title? Next question please.”
White did say at some length that he had previously warned that McGregor couldn’t continue to hold up the lightweight division by sitting out until the latter part of 2018, which would be nearly two years since he won the title from Eddie Alvarez.
“Leading into the Mayweather fight I made it pretty clear, I’ve been in this business a very long time, when you make an obscene amount of money like that, who knows if they’ll ever come back. Right now the position we’re in, Conor’s saying maybe I’ll come back in August, maybe I’ll come back in September. That’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division. The division has to go on,” White said. “These guys have bene fighting their whole career, everybody wants to get to that pinnacle and it’s the fair thing to do.
“I take so much s–t for how much I like Conor McGregor and everything else but the division has to go on.”
Judging by those comments, it would appear the UFC was going to strip McGregor of his title but White still wouldn’t say with any certainty that he’s actually had the title taken away from him.
“I have no update,” White said about McGregor’s future. “The winner of this fight will be the champion.”
“We’ll see what happens [with McGregor’s title].”
The only possible explanation is that the UFC hopes to reach a deal with McGregor to book his return fight for later this year and if that gets done sooner rather than later, then perhaps he’ll hold onto his title. Either way, the situation is nothing short of confusing considering how everything unfolded at the UFC 223 pre-fight press conference.