Perhaps Conor McGregor’s greatest feat in MMA has been his ability to maintain his grip on the UFC lightweight title despite his remaining dormant in the division for 14 months and counting.
Though McGregor’s gone unstripped this long, Dana White said at UFC Fight Night 124 earlier this month that when Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Tony Ferguson fight at UFC 223 on April 7, they’ll be vying for the “real title.”
“I have no update,” White when asked about to provide an update on McGregor. “The winner of Khabib-Ferguson will be the champion.”
He added: “They’re going to fight for the real title. This is the real title. I said that Conor can’t hold up the title for two years.”
And if Nurmogomedov wins—or, as he puts it, “when” he wins—he’ll make McGregor pay his dues to get back to the top of the lightweight division.
“When I beat Tony Ferguson, I’m gonna make [McGregor] a little bit humble and he have to stay on the line,” Nurmagomedov said in a video interview with RT (which, it should be noted, has been described by the Columbia Journalism Review as a propaganda outlet for the Russian government). “He have to stay on the line, because he only have one fight at 155. And he want to fight for the title? No. No way. When I become UFC lightweight champ, I’m gonna say, ‘Hey, who is real contender? Who has five, six, seven win streak?’ They have to fight for the title, not for you. We’ll see what happens. But I don’t think he’ll ever fight with me. I think they understand what’s gonna happen.”
Ferguson holds the UFC lightweight record with 10 straight wins in the division. Nurmagomedov can tie that record in Brooklyn: He’s 25-0 in his MMA career and has claimed victory in his first nine UFC fights.
The Eagle is under the impression that when he does match that streak, he’ll be the undisputed champ.
“This is not Conor’s belt,” Nurmagomedov said. “This is not interim Tony Ferguson’s belt. This is [undisputed] belt. And after when we fight April 7, April 8, they’re gonna make it official. Who wins becomes real champ. Now, Tony Ferguson is still interim champion. And Conor McGregor, they call him champion, but he isn’t champ. Whoever wins is gonna become real champ.”