The opening moments of Conor McGregor’s pay-per-view interview on Saturday brought forth a curious sight, as the booming voice of Octagon announcer Bruce Buffer ushered McGregor onto the stage as both the reigning and defending UFC featherweight and lightweight champion.
Of course, that proclamation is only partly true. Less than two weeks after McGregor captured the 155-pound title at UFC 205 to become the only simultaneous two-division champion in UFC history, the promotion unceremoniously stripped McGregor of his 145-pound belt in order to give Jose Aldo the title and put an interim strap on the line for Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis at UFC 206.
And while the UFC officially used the term “relinquish” in its press release to describe how McGregor had given away his belt, McGregor made it clear on Saturday that there was nothing at all mutual about the decision.
“Before I even got the belt, they wanted to strip me,” McGregor said during his hour-long interview in Manchester. “That’s what I’m saying, before I even won the belt, it was like, ‘you’ve got to give up this one.’ It’s like, just let me go and get the thing first. Let me go make the history. Let me go do what’s never been done before. And there seemed to be a problem with that, for whatever reason. I don’t know what the problem was, but again, a lack of communication.
“All they had to do was ask. If they had actually came to me and said, ‘Conor, I know you’re prepared to have a baby, I know you’re chilling. If you want to fight for this featherweight belt in March,’ just a nice time, I would’ve went in and would’ve slapped Holloway or this guy he’s fighting, or Aldo, or whoever they wanted. No problem. All they had to do was ask. Instead, they created an interim belt. They gave back the unified belt to a guy I KO’d in 13 seconds. A guy I dominated is now the interim title (holder).
“Look, I was almost a little bit embarrassed for the way it was playing out,” McGregor added. “Like, is that really how bad it’s gone, that you guys need to kinda create all this fake stuff to sell some stuff? But it (UFC 206) still sold sh*t. It still sold nothing, so I don’t know.”
McGregor upturned the MMA world in Dec. 2015 when he knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds to be crowned the UFC featherweight champion. That bout ultimately proved to be McGregor’s final fight at 145 pounds, as a pair of welterweight contests against Nate Diaz trailed it, followed by the Irishman’s lightweight title win over Eddie Alvarez.
However, regardless of the UFC’s official stance, McGregor still considers himself to be the reigning two-division champion, and he believes the fans in MMA do as well.
“Before (UFC 205), there were conversations (about what to do with the belt). Not after,” McGregor said. “After, they just kinda went silent, then it just happened. But keyboard warriors, they can type anything and people think (it’s real). That ain’t real. You said that they wrote out a press release. What did they do? Did they send that army? Did they physically take that belt from me? Has anyone laid a finger on me to take that second belt, or the first belt? No, I’m still a two-weight world champion, make no mistake about it.
“At the end of the day, my shadow looms large over all of that featherweight division, over all of the lightweight division, over all the entire the UFC. So they can try and fool the fans all they want, but the fans know. They know what’s what.”
The expectation within UFC circles in the days after UFC 205 was that McGregor would sit out the first quarter of 2017 while he awaited the birth of his first son.
But the glory of McGregor’s dual-belt legacy lasted less than a month before a last-second injury to Daniel Cormier forced the UFC to scramble for a championship belt to put up for grabs at UFC 206, ultimately leading to the situation that exists now. And according to McGregor, if the organization was in that much of a bind about what to do with its 145-pound division, a simple phone call could’ve gone a long way in clearing everything up.
“Like I said, all they had to do was ask,” McGregor said. “All they had to do was ask. Right now, I’m walking around about 75 kilos. That’s like 160 pounds. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a heavy cut. It’s heavy weight cut, but tell me one time I’ve missed it. Tell me one time I’ve missed the featherweight limit. At the Aldo fight, there was no IV. We went without IVs at the Aldo fight. That was the first time I’d brought in a nutritionist, I did the best weight cut I’ve ever had, and I didn’t use an IV to rehydrate, and I went in and I knocked my opponent out in 13 seconds.
“So how can they claim I’m not the featherweight world champion? How can they claim I’m not a featherweight anymore? Sign on the dotted line and I’ll take a featherweight fight, no problem. But make no mistake about it, you sign me up against any of these featherweights, they’re not going to show up, and that’s fact. You sign me up against Jose Aldo, how confident are you that fight takes place? He ain’t showing again. You know that. Thirteen-second knockout, he pulled out before, two years traveling the world.
“The featherweights are praying, praying that I don’t come back down there. So whatever.”