One thing that is certain for UFC 223 is that a new undisputed lightweight champion will be crowned. But throughout the promotion of the event, the UFC never addressed the issue on whether Conor McGregor would be stripped of the title or otherwise.
It was all made official by UFC president Dana White himself during the UFC 223 pre-fight press conference in Brooklyn on Wednesday. He also confirmed that Tony Ferguson would not be stripped of his interim title, contrary to his own statement during an ESPN interview on April 1st.
“There’s no stripping. We’re not stripping Tony Ferguson,” White said (transcript via MMA Fighting). “Tony Ferguson isn’t being stripped. The only person here who is losing a belt is Conor. Conor’s losing the belt, these two are fighting for the belt.”
“The interim belt that he had, those two [Nurmagomedov and Ferguson] were supposed to fight — doesn’t happen. One of these guys will be the champion. Tony is still the No. 1 contender.”
As for matching up Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov for a possible fifth time in the future, White also changed his tune a slight bit, from being totally disinterested to being open to it, depending on the situation.
“It’s the last fight on earth that I want to make again,” White said of Ferguson vs. Khabib. “This will be five times — that’s insane — but obviously, however this thing plays out on Saturday, we’ll go from there.”
“Tony is still the number one ranked guy in the world, either way, no matter who wins, so, believe me, I’ll deal with that when it’s time to deal with it.”
In the meantime, UFC 223 will be headlined by Nurmagomedov and featherweight champion Max Holloway. It will be co-headlined by the strawweight title rematch between Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.