Without anything close to a clear return date confirmed, the talk about the UFC stripping lightweight champion Conor McGregor is reaching a fever pitch in most MMA circles.
There’ve been multiple discussions about “The Notorious” coming back to finally unify the lightweight titles with interim champ Tony Ferguson, another about him fighting former two-division champ Georges St-Pierre, more still about him meeting multiple past-prime boxers in the squared circle, and of course, his long-rumored trilogy match with rival Nate Diaz.
But none of it has come even close to fruition, and with McGregor demanding some sort of promoter’s or ownership stake for his next bout, his return could be many months off if it ever comes.
That, unfortunately, has the MMA world in a restless state of influx as fans await any news whatsoever from the sport’s biggest star – a star who was greatly missed throughout an up-and-down 2017 for the world’s biggest MMA outfit. And if you ask octagon commentator Joe Rogan, it’s going to stay that way for awhile.
Speaking to UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley on his “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast (via MMA Mania), Rogan revealed his opinion why the UFC will have to eventually strip McGregor of the title, opening up the path for a huge Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov fight in Russia:
“Here’s my prediction: My prediction (is) Conor doesn’t fight for a while. They strip Conor. Tony and Khabib fight for the world title. I think they’re going to strip him, because Conor’s got $100 million in the bank, and he’s having fun and talking (expletive), and he’s going to keep training,” Rogan said.
“And he’s going to make a big fight in the future, but I think Khabib and Tony is the big fight and (expletive), they might even do that one in Russia. They’re talking about doing a big fight in Russia.”
Indeed the UFC has long discussed a foray into the fight-crazed Russian market, but logistical concerns have kept them out of the country until now, where it simply can no longer be denied with Nurmagomedov rapidly becoming one of their most dominant and fastest-rising stars.
The promotion plans to put on their first-ever card on Russian soil this fall, and Nurmagomedov insists he wants to fight three times this year, with the first bout coming in the spring and the second coming in the fall after Ramadan has passed. That timeline could work out with the UFC’s first event in Russia, and it could also be when the UFC has finally had enough with McGregor and strips him if he has not at least clarified when he plans to return.
Rogan’s suggestion that the champ is more interested in enjoying the $100 million he earned from his circus-like boxing match against Floyd Mayweather certainly appears true on the surface, and there is a good chance he never returns to the octagon.
With each passing day, Rogan’s point of view could become more and more likely – and that’s a call you can bet the UFC is hoping they don’t have to make.