The focus of the collective mixed martial arts world was on today’s (Fri. Jan. 19, 2018) UFC 25th Anniversary Series press conference from Boston, where rumors abound that the UFC would strip the lightweight championship from Conor McGregor in order to have Tony Ferguson face Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed title in the main event of April’s UFC 223 from Brooklyn.
But in true UFC form, the promotion wasn’t willing to back up their recent talk tough talk, instead sending out president Dana White to say he still had no update on the absent champion even though the winner of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov “would be the champion” (whatever that means) when asked about the messy scene in the very first question of the press conference:
“I have no update. The winner of this fight will be the champion.”
And in true White fashion, the polarizing frontman gave the increasingly tiresome non-update that has gained him much ire from the MMA community for years, but seemingly even more so lately under new owners Endeavor:
“We’ll see what happens.”
Asked if he was frustrated by McGregor’s lack of activity or his recent behaviors, White said he wasn’t surprised by it based on his reported $100 million payday to box Floyd Mayweather last August, which made it uncertain he would ever return to the octagon.
No matter what his decision is, however, White repeated his frequent statement that leaving the talented lightweight division in limbo just isn’t fair to the other elite contenders in the weight class:
“No, I said leading into the 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’s know if they’ll ever come back?
“And right now, the position we’re in, Conor’s saying, ‘maybe I’ll come back in August, maybe I’ll come back in September.’ That’s almost two years. It’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division. The division has to go on. You know, these guys have been fighting their whole career, everyone wants to get to that pinnacle, um, and it’s the fair thing to do.
“Listen, I take so much shit for how much I like Conor McGregor and everything else, but the division has to go on.”
Finally questioned if his lengthy sit on the sidelines was hurting his star power, White stood by his front man and suggested McGregor was one of the biggest stars in all of sports, let alone the UFC:
“I think Conor McGregor is not only one of the biggest stars in mixed martial arts, one of the biggest stars in all of sports on earth. So, this fight is ridiculous. And after this fight happens, whenever Conor does decide to come back I think it will be massive.”
There’s little evidence suggesting McGregor’s return – be it against Ferguson, Khabib, or anyone, really – would be by far the biggest fight going in MMA the moment news of it broke. The problem is we don’t know when that fight will come, or if it ever will.
That has the MMA world on edge anticipating their biggest star’s next move and from the sound of things, fans are going to be waiting significantly longer.
Just don’t expect any clarity from the UFC themselves – as usual.