There’s no doubting Conor McGregor’s status as by far the biggest name in MMA right now, but the “Notorious” Irishman is still being met with a large amount of criticism due to the fact he has yet to defend either one of his UFC titles.
After winning the lightweight belt from Eddie Alvarez last November, McGregor was of course stripped of his UFC featherweight title and then went on to take time off to welcome his son Conor Jr. into the world. An understandable and acceptable proposition to be sure, yet his absence from the MMA world was only enhanced by the fact that he spent the rest of 2017 chasing, getting, and participating in a circus-like boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, a bout he ultimately lost in the tenth round but made a record-breaking sum (for an MMA athlete) to participate in.
Now, McGregor has teased a trilogy bout with rival Nate Diaz when he does return to the octagon, a fight which Diaz has clearly been waiting – and demanding his own $20-30 million purse – for, and a fight that has hardcore MMA fans complaining about the legitimacy of their favorite sport. Diaz hasn’t fought since losing to McGregor at UFC 202 in 2016, and the UFC will hand out another interim belt when Tony Ferguson meets Kevin Lee for the placeholder title at McGregor’s lightweight roost.
The entire thing has made quite the mess in one of the UFC’s most storied divisions, and McGregor recently went so far as to acknowledge that to Caroline Pearce during “A Night With Conor McGregor” in Glasgow, Scotland (via MMA Fighting), insisting that he has to finally defend his belt and that it is important to him.
And with Diaz demanding a huge payday, it may just be against Ferguson or Lee, like the MMA world wants:
“Look, I’ve got the UFC title to defend and that means something to me. I will defend that world title.
“Nathan (Nate Diaz) is there. He’s trying to come in here and make all of these demands. If he starts pricing himself out of an event, I probably will defend against the person who wins this interim belt…or someone along that line to legitimize it again.”
With his self-declared goal to “get in, get rich, and get out,” the rags-to-riches Dubliner has certainly done that, and now he at least seems to think it’s finally time to defend one of his titles and legitimize the rankings, something that’s obviously lacking in today’s money-obsessed UFC:
“I’ve already gone from the highest of the high in terms of a money fight. Now the question I always get is about defending the belt and legitimizing the sport and the rankings. Maybe now it would be a good time for me to go and do that and shut that side up. I’ve done the money fight. I’ve done the pinnacle of a money fight – I fought for the money belt – the WBC money belt it was called.”
Indeed he has, and the time is most definitely right to finally defend a title – whether be it against Diaz or the winner of Ferguson vs. Lee. The UFC superstar acknowledged the merits of both fights and said he’ll wait to see the result of the October 7 interim bout in the UFC 216 headliner:
“In my head now, I’m very interested in seeing this fight this weekend and to see how the lightweight title picture pans out and to go in and correct that whole situation. That’s where my thoughts are.
“I also have history with Nate. It’s 1-1 and that has to happen. It will happen. The more I spend time away from it, I think I’ve already done all of the money fights. Now, to legitimize a title and to bring it back, I could potentially bring it back. That’s a little bit exciting for me. I’ll see how this whole title picture plays out and we’ll go from there.”