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Dana White: Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov winner will be ‘champion’

Tony Ferguson
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Conor McGregor is still the UFC lightweight champion.

On April 7 at UFC 223 in Brooklyn, interim champion Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight to determine who is the real champion.

Simple enough.

That’s the scenario UFC president Dana White laid out on Friday at a press conference in Boston, prior to this Saturday’s UFC 220 event. With Ferguson and Nurmagomedov in attendance, the first question that White was asked was whether their announced main event bout will be for the undisputed championship and should that be the case, will McGregor be stripped of his title.

White’s response was inconclusive.

“I have no update,” White said. “The winner of this fight will be the champion.”

McGregor has not defended the lightweight title since winning it from Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016. He fought once in 2017, a crossover boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr., but did not compete inside the Octagon and it is unclear when or if he he plans to do so again.

Pressed on the McGregor matter, White remained cryptic: “We’ll see what happens.”

White did double down on his previous statements regarding the potential removal of the title from McGregor’s waist should “The Notorious” extend his hiatus into the latter months of 2018.

“I said leading into Mayweather fight, I made it pretty clear, I’ve been in this business for a very long time. When you make an obscene amount of money like that, who knows if they’ll ever come back?” White said. “Right now, with the position we’re in, Conor’s saying, ‘Maybe I’ll come back in August, maybe I’ll come back in September. Well, that’s almost two years. It’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division. The division has to go on. These guys have been fighting their whole career. Everybody wants to get to that pinnacle and it’s the fair thing to do.

“Listen, I take so much s**t for how much I like Conor McGregor and everything else, but the division has to go on.”

Ferguson became the UFC interim lightweight champion by submitting Kevin Lee at UFC 216 this past October. It was the 10th consecutive victory for the Ultimate Fighter 13 winner, who hasn’t lost since May 2012. During his rise up the ranks, Ferguson has repeatedly called for bouts with McGregor, Nate Diaz, and Nurmagomedov.

Outside of issues with injuries and weight cutting, Nurmagomedov has been just as impressive. He owns a spotless 25-0 professional record, with nine of those wins taking place inside the Octagon. Most recently, “The Eagle” put a one-sided beatdown on Edson Barboza at UFC 219 in December.

With those accolades between them, White was effusive in his praise for the two fighters and announced that the winner of UFC 223 would fight for “the title.”

What that title means exactly remains a mystery.

“They’re going to fight for the title,” White said. “This is the real title. I said that Conor can’t hold up the title for two years.”

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