Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White wants to keep the 155-pound division moving in spite of the suspension handed down to its champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov was handed a nine-month suspension (retroactive to Oct. 6, 2018) from the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) for his role in the-post UFC 229 brawl. He was given the option to reduce the suspension to just six months if he performed an anti-bullying public service announcement. However, Nurmagomedov has made it clear he won’t fight until the suspensions of his teammates Abubakar Nurmagomedov and Zubaira Tukhugov -- who also participated in the brawl -- are up. Both Abubakar and Tukhugov are eligible to return this October.
White was in Australia promoting UFC 234 and was asked by a reporter during the UFC 234 post-fight press conference about the promotion’s plans for the lightweight division. White said in light of the news that the champ declined the offer to reduce his nine-month suspension he will look at alternate plans in the division (via MMA News):
“Guys can’t sit out and wait that long when you have the title,” White said. “You can’t do it. So if that’s true and he’s going to do that, then we’d have to figure out something else and you start looking at whether it’s Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson or one of these other guys. Whoever wants to, when opportunity knocks, answer the door. We’ll see how this thing plays out.”
The UFC has no shortage of potential challengers waiting in the wings to fight for an interim belt including former interim champion Tony Ferguson, former lightweight champion Conor McGregor as well as Dustin Poirier and Al Iaquinta.