It’s looking increasingly likely that Conor McGregor will be a challenger rather than a champion when, or perhaps if, he makes his long-awaited return to the octagon.
The Irishman hasn’t fought in the UFC since November of 2016 when he ripped the lightweight title from Eddie Alvarez at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden. In the meantime, Tony Ferguson has become the interim champion and Russia’s Khabib Nurmagomedov has established himself in many people’s minds as the division’s number one, belt or no belt.
Ferguson, along with much of the MMA community, has long been calling for McGregor to “defend or vacate” but ‘The Notorious’ one seems in no rush to do either.
McGregor’s promoters, however, are beginning to get anxious and it seems that they are preparing to take the choice out of the SBG Ireland fighter’s hands.
Speaking on FS1’s UFC St. Louis post-fight show on Sunday, UFC president Dana White indicated that McGregor’s current plans are for a September return and unless that changes very soon he will be stripped of the title.
“Conor has said he’s thinking about coming back in September,” White said. “If he comes back in September, that’s almost two years [without a defence]. That can’t happen. It’s not fair to everybody else. Love Conor, respect Conor, love everything that he’s done for this company – everybody knows that, I say it all the time. The belt would have to move on.”
“You do Khabib vs. Tony, we’re working on that fight now, and if and when Conor comes back, he would get the first crack at the title.”
Asked directly if that meant Conor might be stripped of the belt, White answered in the affirmative.
“Absolutely,” said the president.
Skip to the 3:30 mark in the video below for the McGregor/Ferguson/Nurmagomedov talk.
"Conor has said he's thinking about coming back in September. If he comes back in September, that's almost two years…that can't happen." — @danawhite
— FOX Sports: UFC (@UFCONFOX) January 15, 2018
A report that emerged from Russia yesterday suggested that the UFC are trying to piece Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov together for an event in New York on April 7th. That followed an earlier report from RT Sport that suggested the UFC are planning their debut in Russia this September.
Given that White has previously spoken of McGregor’s interest in fighting Nurmagomedov in Russia, the latter report is an especially interesting one. Is the UFC’s plan to do Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov first, and to have a Russian date and venue on standby so that they can do a massive McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov fight if Khabib beats Tony?
Asked about the reports of a fall debut in Russia, White didn’t give much away.
“I’ve said many times, I’m working on Russia,” said White. “I’d love to get into Russia. We are poking around out there.”