Fighters winning an interim title almost always guaranteed a title shot to unify the belts in the past but that practice has changed with a couple of champions in recent history.
Both Tony Ferguson and Colby Covington were stripped of their interim titles and UFC president Dana White feels justified in both instances where that happened.
In the case of Covington, White explains that the outspoken American Top Team fighter had an opportunity to fight welterweight champion Tyron Woodley last year at UFC 228 but he turned it down.
Covington has explained repeatedly that he was scheduled for sinus surgery and the timing of the fight was just three months after a five-round battle against Rafael dos Anjos.
When it comes to Ferguson, White says that his freak knee injury ahead of UFC 223 where he was scheduled to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov is what ultimately cost him the title shot.
Of course, Ferguson went through surgery on his knee and ended up returning on the same night that Nurmagomedov took on Conor McGregor but White says he still missed his initial opportunity earlier in the year when the knee injury happened.
“So Colby Covington won the interim title, he was next, he couldn’t fight,” White explained at the UFC 234 post fight press conference. “He turned down the fight with Tyron Woodley. So what am I supposed to wait for Colby Covington to show up and fight? That’s not how it works.
“Tony [Ferguson] is next, he’s got the fight, he’s got the belt. Trips, blows his knee out, and has to have reconstructive knee surgery. We gonna wait for him? No, we’re going to move on.”
White says it’s always going to come down to scheduling and the willingness of a fighter to step up to take an opportunity that is presented to them.
If there’s a criteria to making title fights, timing might ultimately be the biggest factor for anybody looking to become UFC champion.
“It’s all based on who’s healthy, who’s ready to go and who’s not,” White stated. “Cause the machine has to keep rolling. We have ‘X’ amount of fights every year — listen when you win an interim title, that means you’re next. If you can’t go next, you’re out and that means somebody else goes next.
“I think that’s the criteria. That’s what we always do.”