The undefeated lightweight powerhouse Khabib Nurmagomedov has made it very clear that Conor McGregor must earn his way back into a title-fight after UFC 223.
One of the bigger stories that emerged from last night’s UFC 220 was the apparent disappointment that was written all over the face of the UFC’s president Dana White following Francis Ngannou’s main-event loss to the dominant Stipe Miocic.
Now, we’re sure he’ll claim otherwise but in a time where the UFC’s river of star-power has been running thin, it became obvious that the promotion were invested in Ngannou’s rise and secretly had their fingers crossed that he would come out as the winner in his matchup with Miocic.
And while things most certainly did not play out like that, it could well be said that this latest setback to Dana’s plans will allow the lightweight champion Conor McGregor to gain even more leverage in his ongoing negotiations with the UFC brass.
Right now, his status as the belt-holder at 155lbs is completely up in the air, but with Khabib Nurmagomedov now scheduled to face off against the current interim-champ Tony Ferguson at UFC 223, the notion that we may well have a new undisputed champion when all is said and done seems to be gaining some substance.
Nurmagomedov spoke to TSN in a recent interview and outlined his feelings McGregor’s inactivity and how if he wishes to fight him for the belt – in the event that it is he who bests Ferguson on April 7 – he will need to earn his way back into the mix.
“They stripped his belt at lightweight. They stripped his featherweight belt and we [Khabib and Tony] are going to fight for the real belt and that’s it. I don’t understand why you media people keep talking like, ‘did you strip him or not?’. Of course the UFC stripped him.
“Now, he has to deserve a title shot. My plan is, beat Tony Ferguson and then the UFC are going to try and put McGregor next in line? No, he has to deserve it. I’m going to tell him ‘hey, go in line.'”
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena