Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White may suggest that the promotion is moving on from Conor McGregor as its lightweight champion, but you’ll never hear him say the word “stripped.”
In a TMZ Sports interview published Thursday, the UFC frontman was quizzed once again about the status of the company’s 155-pound king and whether or not he would be forced to vacate the crown. While McGregor still presently holds the strap, current interim lightweight titlist Tony Ferguson is scheduled to meet undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov in the headliner of UFC 223, set for April 7 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Ferguson claimed the interim belt at UFC 216 this past October, submitting Kevin Lee with a third-round triangle choke.
When asked directly if McGregor would be stripped, TMZ Sports couldn’t make White say the magic word.
White is asked outright: “All the fans want to know if you’re going to strip Conor before the Khabib-Ferguson fight?”
White was careful and cagey in his choice of words.
“I said in the last press conference, that fight will be for the title. It’s not for the interim title, that fight is for the title … it’s not for the interim title, that fight is for the title.”
McGregor won the UFC featherweight title at UFC 194 in December 2015, knocking out Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds. After splitting a pair of bouts with Nate Diaz, “The Notorious” Irishman would go on to knockout Eddie Alvarez to claim 155-pound gold at UFC 205, becoming the first simultaneous, two-division champion in promotional history, but on Nov. 26, 2016, McGregor vacated the 145-pound title without ever having defended it. He has yet to defend his lightweight championship, either.
“So, Conor is going to be stripped, presumably a week before [UFC 223]?” White is asked in a follow-up question. Again, White refused to use “the S-word.”
“That fight will be for the title,” repeated the grinning UFC boss.
“Is he upset? Conor understands,” he continued. “Conor made a lot of money, he wants some time off, but the division has to go on and the business has to go on,” White continued. “I say it all the time, with that kind of money, Conor might never come back. It’s a lot of money.”