It was two steps forward and one step back for the UFC lightweight division last week.
Finally, it was announced that UFC interim lightweight champion (?) Tony Ferguson would face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the “undisputed” lightweight belt at UFC 223. However, what appeared to be the much sought after clarification was negated by UFC president Dana White’s refusal to state if Conor McGregor’s undisputed title would be stripped.
Just as many, if not more, questions coming out of that presser than going on. Unprecedented stuff.
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) January 19, 2018
The consensus is that McGregor will remain the ‘true’ champion until April 7 when his rivals will face off at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York. If he still refuses to defend that belt against the winner, it will then be stripped.
But given Ferguson’s newfound promotion from ‘interim’ to just the UFC lightweight champion, we are left in the unprecedented situation of two fighters having full champion status in a UFC division.
An intense Ferguson appeared on MMA Fighting’s ‘The MMA Hour‘, to discuss the impasse with host Ariel Helwani. While ‘El Cucuy’ was as baffled as anyone at the situation, he had no hesitation in giving his view on it.
“First of all Ariel, I want to say thanks to you and my fans for trying to bring clarity to the situation, for standing up for whats fair”, he declared. “I don’t want to fight someone who doesn’t want to fight. To me, this is for the real belt, I’m the current champ.”
He then revealed that during contract negotiations involving him and McGregor, he was told that that fight would be for the undisputed belt.
“They were saying: ‘You guys are fighting for the undisputed title’. That was right before they told me that I was gonna fight Conor McGregor. And then the whole bunch of shit just went down. They offered me a fighter that didn’t want to fight. I don’t know if it was a contract issue or what, but he didn’t seem interested.”
While Ferguson is content to face Khabib for the de facto lightweight strap, and spoke of the good relationship he shares with Dana White, he was honest in how he felt about proceedings.
“Yeah it bothers me, it bugs the shit out of me dude. I’m the fucking champ and we don’t know if we’re fighting for the real belt or not. What the fuck is that?
Dana White’s telling us one thing on one part of the curtain, and on the other side he’s saying: ‘No, Conor McGregor’s the champion’. I love Dana, but what the fuck, dude?”
Having asked the UFC backstage about the situation after last weeks press conference, Ferguson claimed that they were “embarrassed”, and asking “what’s going on” just like he was.
So, if no news from White or McGregor is soon forthcoming, we may have to wait a few more months until clarity is provided. The full interview with Tony Ferguson can be seen below via The MMA Hour at around one hour and fifteen minutes in.