UFC President Dana White has a timetable for when he’d like to see Conor McGregor return to the Octagon, and if the Irish star doesn’t meet that, there could be consequences.
If McGregor is ready to fight within the next three months, White envisions having interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson defend his belt against Khabib Nurmagomedov, with the winner facing the “Notorious” one in a title unification bout.
“As long as Conor is willing to (book a) fight by March, we could do Khabib versus Tony,” White told Yahoo Sports. “We could do Khabib versus Tony, and then the winner fights Conor for the title. Or if Conor doesn’t want to fight and wants to sit out until next fall, then we would have to make Khabib versus Tony for the title, not the interim title.”
Nurmagomedov re-established himself as a contender in emphatic fashion at UFC 219 with a lopsided decision win over Edson Barboza. After the victory, the Dagestani grappler engaged in some social media trash talk with McGregor, leading some to believe that “The Eagle” might suddenly be next in line as the division’s No. 1 contender, even ahead of Ferguson.
“I love that matchup, but Tony Ferguson is the interim champion, and Conor and I haven’t really figured out when he’s coming back and what’s going on,” White said. “So Conor has some big decisions to make here, really quick. If he waits — I don’t think Conor wants to fight until August, but if he waits until August or September, that’s around two years since the belt has been defended, and that can’t happen.”
McGregor won lightweight gold with a stoppage of Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016. Since then, the division has been in limbo, with Ferguson claiming the interim strap with a win over Kevin Lee at UFC 216.
“This is game of time. Time is your enemy in this sport, or any other sport. When you’re a professional athlete, time is your enemy, and we can’t let this thing go on forever and not give other guys the opportunity,” White said. “Tony Ferguson has been around for a long time and has earned his dues, Khabib has earned his dues, and the list goes on and on. So, Conor has done very well, he’s made a lot of money, and if he decides that he doesn’t want to fight again for another, however long, that’s up to him. That’s his choice and his decision. But the belt has to move on, so we’ve gotta figure some stuff out about him in the next couple of months.”
McGregor was rumored to have made more than $100 million for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather on Aug. 26. While that’s far more than any of his UFC paydays, White is confident money won’t be an issue when it comes to negotiations with the SGB Ireland standout.
“I’ve never been afraid to pay Conor McGregor money,” White said. “Conor McGregor brings the money in, and we’ve laid out a really nice offer for him, and he’s a smart kid. I think we’ll figure it out. I’ve always figured it out with him. I’ve always ended up getting a deal done with Conor McGregor. The question is, and you’re right, does he have so much money that he doesn’t care anymore and he doesn’t really want to fight? That’s up to him, but in no way, shape, or form am I asking him to come back and not make money, because he’s going to make money.”