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- Conor McGregor does not intend to return to UFC until September.
- UFC president Dana White says if that is correct then he will strip McGregor of the Irishman’s lightweight world championship belt.
- Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will fight for the title in McGregor’s absence – but McGregor would get “first crack” at his old belt “if and when” he does return to the sport.
UFC is making contingency plans for what will happen if lightweight champion Conor McGregor does not return to the sport until September.
McGregor would be stripped of his lightweight title, “the belt would move on,” and two other fighters would contend for the championship in the Irish striker’s absence, according to UFC president Dana White.
“Conor is saying he’s thinking about coming back in September and that’s almost two years – that can’t happen,” White said in a recent appearance on UFC on Fox Sports.
“It’s just not fair to everyone else,” he said. “I love Conor, respect Conor, and love everything he has done for this company [but] the belt would have to move on, absolutely.”
McGregor has not fought in UFC since a thumping victory over Eddie Alvarez in December 2016.
In that bout, McGregor knocked Alvarez down with clinical conter punches, well-timed overhand left shots, and finished the fight in the second round with a brutal four-punch combination that put Alvarez down and out.
With the win, McGregor became the first same-time double champion in UFC history. However, he has never defended the title and has fought just once in the 14 months since – a tenth round boxing rules loss to Floyd Mayweather.
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While McGregor has been away from the cage, two other lightweights have emerged as viable contenders for the title – Dagestan wrestler Khabib Nurmagomedov, a 29-year-old who is undefeated in 25 cage fights, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) expert Tony Ferguson, a pupil at Eddie Bravo’s highly-respected BJJ school 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu.
For White, it is clear who will fight for the vacant lightweight belt if and when McGregor gets stripped.
“You do Khabib versus Tony,” White said. “We’re working on that fight now. If and when Conor comes back, he will get the first crack at the title.”