It’s been a year and two months since Conor McGregor won the UFC lightweight belt, and he still hasn’t defended his title. While Dana White says that’s a bit of an “exaggeration”, it is actually a fact that the Irishman never defended any of the four belts he has ever won in his career.
Because of this, some have called for him to be stripped of the lightweight title. Others have gone further to say that it hasn’t happened because having McGregor as champion is good for the UFC’s bottom line.
According to Chael Sonnen, that theory falls apart to reasoning.
“I’m not some Conor defender, I’m not a hater, I’m just living in the world of reality,” Sonnen said. “What I’m speaking to is the conspiracy theory that Dana would protect Conor for Business. How does that help business?
“How is it more helpful for Conor on his next fight, to walk out wearing the belt, than for somebody else to walk out wearing the belt with Conor walking out from the opposing corner. It’s the same! What’s the difference?
“You want it to do good business. You strip the son of a bitch, so you could come back that Conor McGregor is back after the title that he never lost,” he said. “That, would do big business.”
While that is an understandable take, Sonnen went even further.
“Dana hasn’t stripped him, because he doesn’t have a reason to strip him. Conor isn’t hurt, and he’s not refusing fights,” he said. “People say, well he hasn’t defended his belt, he hasn’t fought since Eddie Alvarez. That’s not true, he did fight. It was Floyd Mayweather.
“While the title wasn’t on the line, Conor wasn’t at home sitting on his ass doing nothing. He was tied up in a business venture. So he’s not holding up the company, he’s not even holding up a division. He had a once in a lifetime opportunity, and he took it. That’s just the reality.”
No one really blames McGregor for taking the payday of his life against Mayweather. But contrary to what Sonnen says, by not being active, Conor is holding up a division.
You have these worthy challengers who have worked their entire lives with the goal of being the world champion and to be recognized as the best in the world. Now they’re left fighting the toughest fighters in the division without the chance to accomplish that, while the “real” champion continues to sit on the sidelines with no return in sight.
That being said, there’s a reason that McGregor is sitting things out, which I feel is also why White has yet to strip him of his title. It’s not for a lack of motivation, they’re just in negotiations and it’s mainly about the money.
This is something that McGregor has even alluded to while talking some smack about Khabib Nurmagomedov as of late. Conor wants to be paid what he feels he is worth, and unless things go sour, the UFC also isn’t just going to strip him and put a wrench into their discussions about a title unification.
Conor isn’t necessarily avoiding these fights, as it is probably more about the willingness of the UFC to cave into his demands and open up their checkbooks a little bit more. He made a lot of money fighting Mayweather, and he knows he has the leverage and the luxury to wait things out a bit.