UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor is facing the possibility of having a title stripped for the second time.
While Jon Jones remains the only UFC fighter to be stripped of a title on three separate occasions, Conor McGregor could soon pull within striking distance of that dubious record. Of course, the circumstances differ greatly. Jones was stripped of his light heavyweight title in 2015 after crashing his vehicle into a pregnant woman’s car, then fleeing the scene. After winning an interim title in 2016 against Ovince St. Preux, he was stripped of that belt when he failed a drug test for UFC 200. And again in 2017, Jones was stripped of the undisputed title he won back when he defeated Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. A positive drug test following that bout, and the result was changed to a No Contest.
McGregor has experienced no such embarrassments, yet nevertheless, he’s running the risk of having a title stripped for the second time. That’s if he doesn’t return to action soon. McGregor had his 145lb title stripped when UFC 206 was in desperate need of gold to justify its existence. Since that time in 2016, he’s fought in exactly zero MMA fights. A detour into boxing against Floyd Mayweather Jr. was his only fight in 2017, and while it brought about a windfall of cash, it also meant that the UFC’s 155lb title has sat on the shelf.
McGregor, ever the businessman, has been looking for some serious cash to get back in the cage. And while he no doubt deserves it as the top draw in the sport, he’s also apparently targeting September for a return to the octagon. That, says UFC President Dana White, is just too long a time for the title to go undefended.
Speaking on the Fox Sports 1 post-fight show after UFC St. Louis, White addressed the possibility of stripping the title, and Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. Ferguson currently holds claim to the interim lightweight title in the UFC, a dubious distinction given the title picture in the division.
“There’s no doubt that Khabib is the guy to fight, but lets remember, Khabib didn’t make weight in his last fight with Tony Ferguson, which really blew things up, and really screwed it all up” he told FS1’s Karyn Bryant. “He came back, he looks amazing, he made weight easily, he was on weight the week of the fight.”
“Conor has said he’s thinking about coming back in September” White continued. “If he comes back in September, that’s almost two years. That can’t happen. It’s not fair to everybody else.”
“Love Conor, respect Conor, love everything that he’s done for this company, everybody knows that, I say it all the time” White said of the man who is arguably the UFC’s lone remaining superstar. Yet despite what McGregor brings to the table, “the belt would have to move on. You do Khabib vs. Tony. We’re working on that fight now. If and when Conor comes back, he would get the first crack at the title.”
Does that mean McGregor could be stripped of the title? “Absolutely” White told Bryant.