With Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov set to clash in the main event of UFC 223, UFC president Dana White hinted Thursday that McGregor is going to be stripped of his belt. The Irish superstar has held the title since a KO win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016, but he hasn’t defended the belt ever since. In fact, he hasn’t even fought in MMA since then, with a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather being his only combat sports bout in the last 16 months.
Some champion, huh?
It’s not surprising that White has finally come out and said McGregor will have his title taken from him, though it’s been like pulling teeth trying to get White to actually come out and say it. At a recent pre-fight press conference for UFC 223, White was non-committal when asked for clarification as to whether or not the Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov bout would be for Ferguson’s interim belt or for the actual title. It’s almost as if White was enjoying toying with the media and refusing to give them answers to their questions (isn’t that what press conferences are for?). Now we finally have some clarity in the right direction, though we still don’t know when McGregor will be stripped.
Though McGregor is a tremendous talent and one of the only two-division champs in UFC history, he hasn’t been much of a champion. He never defended the featherweight title, with the UFC stripping him of the 145 belt when he committed to moving up to 155. With the Mayweather bout being such a big money-maker for the UFC, the company stood by its man and refused to strip him even though he had no plans of defending the belt.
White continued to stand by McGregor and push aside questions about his belt, but at 16 months now without a title defense and with none in plain sight, the UFC has no choice but to take the belt away from McGregor. Fans and media have been saying it for months now, but finally White seems to have clued in that it’s not fair for McGregor to hold the other fighters in the division at hostage. Taking his belt away is absolutely the right call.
So, what’s next for McGregor? “Notorious” keeps pushing for the rematch with Mayweather on social media, even though no one really wants to see it. It seems more like that if there is a rematch it would come in boxing rather than MMA, because let’s face it, Mayweather would have no chance defending a takedown.
A trilogy fight against Nate Diaz is also a possibility. The first two fights did huge numbers for the UFC and even though White has said now is not the time for the Diaz trilogy, we all know White’s fibbed before. And heck, while we’re talking about the Diaz brothers, what about a superfight featuring McGregor against Nick Diaz? That fight would do blockbuster numbers, and McGregor has spoke glowingly in the past of his respect for the elder Diaz brother.
With McGregor no stranger to superfights, we still can’t completely write off a fight against Georges St-Pierre, which would be one of the biggest fights in UFC history. I’ve said before this fight makes a lot of sense in the day and age of money fights, but with GSP recently coming back, beating Michael Bisping for the middleweight and then taking a leave of absence once again, it’s unclear if he wants to compete anymore.
Then you have to think about McGregor’s chase for history and UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley’s desire for a superfight. Though Woodley is likely going to fight Rafael dos Anjos next, you have to admit the chance for McGregor to make MMA history and win a third belt in the UFC would be big, even though stylistically that’s a good fight for Woodley.
While all the fights I just mentioned are possibilities, the truth is the best matchup for McGregor, for the fans, and for the UFC is him fighting the winner of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov. But for whatever reason, McGregor has essentially dismissed both of those men as competitors. I guess he doesn’t think they’ll draw the numbers he wants to get out of bed in the morning, and maybe he knows both guys are high-risk, medium-reward type fights. McGregor is an amazing fighter and he changed the game of MMA, but he’s been a lousy champion, and even with his belt being taken from him any day now, he still doesn’t seem to care.
The Mayweather fight completely changed McGregor’s ambition, because now it seems to only be about money, whereas before it was about his legacy. We’ll see what’s next for McGregor, and the UFC might get creative and put together a matchup for him that we all love, but there’s no doubt it’s a disappointment he never wanted to defend the lightweight belt, robbing the fans of the opportunity to watch some amazing fights.
What’s next for McGregor? Leave a comment below with who you think his next opponent will be, or if he’ll even fight at all.