This summer, clarity finally returned to the UFC featherweight division once more when Max Holloway dethroned Jose Aldo to unify the UFC’s 145-pound titles and stake his claim as the promotion’s reigning champion. The fight, which took place June 3 at UFC 212, brought resolution to the long and strange path of the 145-pound belt that began when Conor McGregor demolished Aldo with a 13-second smackdown in 2015.
McGregor fought three times in 2016 after beating Aldo, competing twice as a welterweight and once as a lightweight — the latter of which earned him a place in UFC history when he became the organization’s only concurrent two-division champion with his first-round destruction of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 — but the Irishman never again returned the featherweight division he reigned over as king, leading the UFC to strip his 145-pound strap last November due to inactivity.
McGregor is now one week away from his latest history-making chapter, a 12-round boxing match against undefeated great Floyd Mayweather on Aug. 26 in Las Vegas. But even though McGregor is preparing himself for a different test altogether in the squared circle, he still “100 percent” considers himself the UFC featherweight champion.
“I mean, how can I not consider myself the UFC featherweight world champion and the UFC lightweight world champion?” McGregor said Wednesday on a media conference call. “The current UFC featherweight world champion is Max Holloway, a man who I dismantled, and the former was Jose Aldo. I still reign supreme over that division. And then also, the 155-pound division, I know there’s talks of an interim belt — I’d only won that belt, and literally a month later there was an interim scheduled.
“But it is what it is, everyone knows I am the multiple-weight world champion of the UFC’s featherweight division and lightweight division, and I look forward to going back and continuing where I left off.”
The interim lightweight belt McGregor referred to is the 155-pound contest currently being targeted between contenders Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee for Oct. 7 at UFC 216. The fight has yet to be finalized, however UFC president Dana White said Wednesday that the UFC intends to move forward with its plans.
“Conor has told me he is going to fight again this year, but I don’t know what’s going to happen,” White said. “You can’t put all these guys on the shelves all this time. We’ll see what happens with this fight, and the fight (Ferguson vs. Lee) is going to move forward, and we’ll see what happens with Conor.”
Throughout the lead-up to Mayweather vs. McGregor, the polarizing Irishman has promised that he will return to the UFC to defend his lightweight title in 2017. Of course, those plans could be derailed if McGregor pulls off the upset of the decade and defeats Mayweather on Aug. 26.
At that point, the combat sports world would become McGregor’s oyster and a rematch against Mayweather would likely be one of the biggest sporting events in history. But that being said, if Mayweather were to fulfill the unlikely promises he’s made about meeting McGregor in the Octagon, McGregor would be more than willing to kill two birds with one stone and defend his 155-pound UFC title against the boxer.
“If he would do that, he would have my respect,” McGregor said. “Anyone who is willing to step into a game like that when their limitations are so short deserves respect, and that’s at all levels, whether it’s at club levels in a small hall or a big stadium filled full of fans, or any combat sport for that matter. But if he was to follow through with his word on that, then great, I’ll be here to grant him his rematch.
“Maybe he can come over and after he gets his ass whooped, he can try and challenge for my lightweight belt.”