UFC president Dana White continues to insist that Conor McGregor wants to fight one more time this year.
Before the UFC lightweight champion had even stepped into the boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August, White suggested that fans would not have to wait long for McGregor’s octagon return. He claimed that the Irish Pay-per-view star would only require a couple of months to shake off the effects of his professional boxing debut and that he would be back fighting in more familiar environs before the end of 2017 – presumably at the promotion’s annual, end-of-year spectacular.
Despite recent contradictory comments from McGregor’s head coach John Kavanagh, White doubled down on this claim at the UFC 216 post-fight press conference in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
“We didn’t specifically talk about it, but we talked about it kinda,” White told the media. “[McGregor] wants to fight again this year. He went and partied in Ibiza for a while and went back home for a while. You’ve got to let him blow off some steam, and then we’ll figure it out(via MMAJunkie).”
According to the always reliable Ariel Helwani, a trilogy decider between McGregor and Nate Diaz has long been the original plan for the headliner of the UFC’s final event of the year – UFC 219, which falls on December 30th.
White, however, dismissed this idea completely.
“Nobody’s talked about Diaz – Diaz has never been talked about,” said the pugnacious president. “That’s Internet bullshit.”
That, of course, isn’t exactly true. Helwani and the MMA community online aren’t the only ones talking about Diaz. McGregor himself has suggested Diaz as a possible opponent and his trainers, the aforementioned Kavanagh and striking coach Owen Roddy, have both said that they would like a third fight with the Stockton savage to come next. Thus, Diaz’s name hasn’t just been frivolously tossed forth into the conversation by gossipy internet forums and rumour mills as White seemed to suggest.
Just minutes before White stepped on stage to speak to the media in Vegas, the UFC crowned a new interim lightweight champion – Tony Ferguson. Ferguson weathered an early storm from the explosive Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC 216, before submitting the waning ‘Motown Phenom’ with a triangle choke in the third. In doing so, he, in theory, set himself up for a shot at McGregor. The UFC has proven in recent times, however, that it is not always a meritocracy and even when the interim gold was wrapped around his waist Ferguson could not have felt confident of his place in the McGregor conversation. There are just so many attractive alternative options for the Dubliner and for the UFC.
According to White, though, McGregor vs. Ferguson must happen.
“Tony’s the interim champion, Conor’s the champion. It’s the fight that makes sense,” he said. “It’s the fight that has to happen – it doesn’t ‘make sense,’ it’s the fight that has to happen.”
Earlier this year, White claimed that Yoel Romero would get the next shot at UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping, but when Georges St-Pierre came to a deal with the promotion just weeks later Romero was cast aside in favour of the bigger star and money-spinner. Considering all that has gone on in the promotion in recent years and the trend toward money-fights, Ferguson probably isn’t going to hold his breath while Diaz’s name continues to float around in the ether.