At Wednesday’s UFC 223 press conference in Brooklyn, UFC president Dana White outlined how there will be just one champion in the lightweight division after Saturday night’s main event — either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Tony Ferguson’s late replacement, Max Holloway.
“No interim champ. When this fight is over, champion,” said White, gesturing to Nurmagomedov and Holloway. “One of these guys will be the champion.”
Although White insisted that he definitely wouldn’t book Nurmagomedov and Ferguson for a fifth time in the immediate aftermath of Ferguson’s withdrawal, he underlined how “El Cucuy” is still the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division.
“It’s the last fight on earth that I want to make again. This will be five times — that’s insane — but obviously, however this thing plays out on Saturday, we’ll go from there. Tony is still the number one ranked guy in the world either way no matter who wins, so believe me I’ll deal with that when it’s time to deal with it,” he said.
White suggested that the only reason that Ferguson will not be the interim champion following his pull out is because the interim championship will become null and void when a new champion is crowned. The UFC president was adamant that Ferguson is not being “stripped” of the title.
“There’s no stripping. We’re not stripping Tony Ferguson. Tony Ferguson isn’t being stripped. The only person here who is losing a belt is Conor. Conor’s losing the belt, these two are fighting for the belt.
“The interim belt that he had, those two [Nurmagomedov and Ferguson] were supposed to fight — doesn’t happen. One of these guys will be the champion,” said White referring to Nurmagomedov and Holloway. “Tony is still the No. 1 contender.”
McGregor — who will no longer be lightweight champion after UFC 223 according to White — is expected to be back before the end of this year.
“Conor is coming back this year 100 percent. He will fight this year. We’ll see how this thing plays out and we’ll go from there,” stated White.
Despite Nurmagomedov and Holloway’s meeting having great significance to the Irishman and his teammate Artem Lobov taking on Alex Caceres on the undercard, White believes that “The Notorious” will not attend UFC 223.
“As far as I know, he’s not, no,” White replied when asked if McGregor would attend UFC 223.
“It would be awesome if Conor came. This is a fight that is obviously very important to him and his future. It would be awesome if Conor was here, but no, I don’t think he has any plans to be here.”
White also claimed that he would be open to Holloway holding both lightweight and featherweight titles, once the Hawaiian could stay active enough to defend both champions.
“Watch it be done, watch it be done!” remarked Holloway, hijacking the question that was directed at the UFC president.
“It’s going to be decided on whether or not he can defend both belts,” said White. “If he can defend both belts, and he’s willing to fight that much, anything is possible.”