UFC boss Dana White had been widely expected to strip lightweight champion Conor McGregor of his title at UFC 220 last weekend. McGregor took the title from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016 but has not defended the title since. McGregor has indicated that he will not return to the Octagon until this fall, meaning that he will have held the title for almost two years without defending it. McGregor’s absence means that the lightweight division is in turmoil.
Confusingly, Tony Ferguson has been declared as the “interim champion” and as reported by CBS Sports, Dana White used the UFC 220 press conference to announce that UFC 223 in Brooklyn, New York, will feature a title fight between Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. The problem, as CBS points out, is that Conor McGregor is the UFC lightweight champion, so how can Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov be a title fight if the champion is not involved?
As reported by MMA Fighting, the lightweight picture has been shaken up by Nate Diaz’s declaration that he is the “real champion.” Diaz made the claim in an expletive-laden Instagram post in which he said that he was “sick of sitting around waiting” for UFC to “step up its game.”
White was pushed hard by reporters at UFC 220, but he refused to comment on whether or not McGregor had been stripped of his title. He refused to answer the question but stated that he had been “unambiguous” in his announcement that the winner of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov will be the lightweight champion. We can only assume that the winner of that fight will be lined up to face McGregor when he does eventually return to the Octagon.
As confusing as the lightweight division is, Conor McGregor is not Dana White’s only problem right now.
Jon Jones And Brock Lesnar: Where Do Their Drug Bans Leave Dana White?
As has been widely reported Jon Jones is out of UFC competition after failing a second test for performance-enhancing drugs. As reported by Pundit Arena, Jones is currently battling to clear his name after testing positive for anabolic steroid turinabol. It is being predicted that Jones could be banned from competition for four years, a period that could well end the 30-year-olds UFC career.
As most UFC fans know Brock Lesnar returned to WWE wrestling when he received an 18-month ban after failing a drugs test. Lesnar had been widely tipped to fight Jones when his ban expired last month. Plans for Lesnar vs. Jones obviously hit the buffers in the wake of Jones’ failed test, but MMA Mania is also claiming that the WWE organization will refuse to let Lesnar compete in MMA again.
White is confident that his big-name stars will return to the UFC Octagon, but George St. Pierre is still missing through ill health and Ronda Rousey is strongly rumored to be headed to the WWE. Dana White may be feeling bullish, but with so many of UFC’s biggest stars out of action, it is clear that he has some enormous hurdles to clear.