UFC president Dana White has said the main event of UFC 257, which pits Dustin Poirier against Conor McGregor, will not be for an interim title. At first, I found White’s claim hard to believe, but I’ve come to trust him that there will not be an interim title on the line when Poirier and McGregor meet on January 23. However, it won’t shock me if the undisputed UFC lightweight title is on the line at UFC 257.
Hear me out. I’m not just sayin’ stuff here. There is a legitimate case to be made that Khabib Nurmagomedov will no longer hold the UFC’s 155-pound title when UFC 257 fight night rolls around.
White’s plan is to sit down with Nurmagomedov before UFC 257 and see if the current lightweight champion is officially retired or if he plans to fight one more time to earn a career MMA record of 30-0.
“I think his dad wanting him to get to 30-0 is in the back of his mind,” White told BT Sport. “And he wants to achieve that because he knew his father wanted it. But we’ll see. He and I are gonna get together next month and talk.”
“He might not. Maybe he won’t fight (again),” White added. “I don’t know the answer to that. But I’m a little confident that I can talk him into it.”
The most important part of White’s conversation with Caroline Pearce of BT Sport was easy to miss because it was along the lines of something White has repeated since the rematch between McGregor and Poirier was booked.
“No interim title,” White said. “I’ll know next month. I’ll know when Conor and Poirier are fighting whether (Khabib’s) gonna fight again.”
If Nurmagomedov and White work out a deal for the champ to fight one more time, Nurmagomedov will almost certainly keep the 155-pound title over his shoulder. However, if White cannot convince Nurmagomedov to return to the octagon, why wouldn’t the champion’s reign end? There would be no good reason to keep Nurmagomedov as the champion if his career is over. With that, the UFC could claim the UFC title vacant and say the lightweight belt is up for grabs when McGregor and Poirier meet at UFC 257.
If that is the plan — and I believe it is — it’s a brilliant one. It adds a “surprise” title fight to the first UFC pay-per-view card of 2021 and it gives Conor McGregor an opportunity to claim another UFC title. And if you think the UFC wouldn’t love to have a belt wrapped around Conor McGregor’s waist at the start of what looks like it will be another uncertain year for the promotion, you haven’t been paying attention.