UFC President Dana White says the UFC will not strip featherweight champion Conor McGregor of his title but that he has to defend it or “give it up.”
In case you missed it, Conor McGregor managed to even things up with Nate Diaz, winning a unanimous decision at UFC 202. In the immediate aftermath of the bout both men seemed poised to run it back for a third time with McGregor insisting it be held at 155 pounds. But UFC President Dana White had other ideas.
Speaking with several outlets afterwards, White said that McGregor must go defend his featherweight championship against interim champion Jose Aldo, or else they’ll take the belt from him. Later, he amended that to allow for McGregor to challenge Eddie Alvarezfor the lightweight title. Now it seems like they may not take the belt from him whatever his decision, something sure to anger Aldo who is adamant about a rematch with McGregor.
“He’s not gonna get stripped,” White said to NBC Sports Radio. “He’s gonna make a decision. He knows that the Nate Diaz fight isn’t the fight to make right now. He has to either defend his title or give it up and decide what he wants to do next.”
It’s hard to parse the circumstances here but White seemed confident McGregor wouldn’t be relinquishing the title while still saying he needed to defend his 145-pound belt or relinquish it. Perhaps that is a sign that White is confident McGregor will be rematching Jose Aldo next. Or it could mean that the company is prepared to soften its stance with its biggest star. It probably doesn’t hurt that UFC 202 was such a tremendous success, even with all the expectations put on it going in.
“Think about this, Pacquiao-Mayweather, the build up for that fight, everything else. That fight didn’t live up to the hype and I think, more importantly, it left a really bad taste in people’s mouths. I don’t think that was the case for Diaz-McGregor . With the amount of people that were pulled in to watch that fight, everybody left satisfied and those are the kind of fights that make you want to come back and watch again.”
Early estimates for UFC 202 have it doing between 1.2 and 1.5 million pay-per-view buys, making it one of the three biggest events in UFC history. It is possible that White doesn’t want to risk running the third fight back so soon and risk fan fatigue with a trilogy fight.
White also talked about the future of former light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and current title holder Daniel Cormier. Jones is looking like he might have a new lease on life, facing a much shorter than expected suspension after failing a UFC 200 drug test. Meanwhile, Cormier has made it clear he has no intention of fighting Jones should he return soon, something Dana White agrees with. Instead, White has his eye on a long sought after match-up.
“You can’t blame Cormier. The guy spent money and trained like 3 times and didn’t fight Jon Jones. I’m interested in doing Anthony Johnson vs. Jon Jones for the interim title and whoever wins will then go on and face Daniel Cormier.”
Johnson scored a devastating knockout over former title challenger Glover Teixeira at UFC 202 and seemingly punched his ticket (pun intended) to a rematch with Cormier for the light heavyweight title. With Cormier and Johnson prepared to fight each other over the official belt, White’s tentative plan seems like it won’t be received too well by either man.
We’ll have to wait to see how each scenario unfolds, but if White has his way, he might have several unhappy fighters on his hands.