Khabib Nurmagomedov will meet interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson in the main event at UFC 223 but speculation has continued about just what belt they will be fighting for.
At the UFC 222/223 press conference last month, Dana White claimed that they would be fighting for the title. He also, however, refused to elaborate on whether that meant stripping the belt from current champion Conor McGregor.
Speaking to TMZ Sports earlier this week, Khabib made it abundantly clear that the UFC has committed to him fighting Ferguson for the undisputed title at UFC 223.
“We’re going to fight for his belt,” Nurmagomedov said. “The UFC strip his belt now, we’re going to fight for the real belt.
“100% [he will be stripped]. I have [a] contract, [for the] real belt. What are they gonna do? They have only one real belt. They have interim belt and they have [the] real belt. They send me [the] contract, we’re gonna fight with Tony Ferguson for [the] real belt.”
It’s unlikely that we get any formal clarity on the situation anytime soon. Personally, I expect McGregor to stay undisputed champion right up until UFC 223 begins. Ferguson and Khabib have a long history of nearly fighting and after 3 failed attempts I can understand the UFC being reluctant to commit to stripping McGregor.
My belief is the UFC announced that McGregor has been stripped during the UFC 223 PPV broadcast. This would be the best possible outcome for all parties. It clears the way for normal service to resume in the lightweight division. It also leaves McGregor to pursue the potentially more lucrative fights he seems more interested in. Based on the way things are shaping up, we could even see him face off against Floyd Mayweather under MMA rules.
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