'The winner of this fight will be the champion': Conor McGregor to lose UFC belt

Conor McGregor will seemingly be stripped of his UFC lightweight title after company president Dana White declared that the winner of Tony Ferguson-Khabib Nurmagomedov will be the new champion at 155lbs.

McGregor is widely regarded as the UFC’s biggest draw but has not had a mixed martial arts bout since November 2016, when he defeated Eddie Alvarez to claim the lightweight strap.

The Dubliner chose a foray into the boxing world last year which yielded a highly-lucrative showdown with Floyd Mayweather and, despite intimating to White he will return to UFC in August or September, his continued inactivity from the octagon has been deemed unfair to his rivals.

White did not outright state the lightweight crown was no longer in McGregor’s possession but confirmed that whoever triumphs between interim beltholder Ferguson and undefeated Russian Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 at the Barclays Center in New York on April 7 will become the new champion.

Speaking at a press conference to announce the headline acts of UFC 222 and UFC 223, when asked what the latest news was on McGregor, White responded: "I have no update, the winner of this fight will be the champion."

When pressed whether that meant McGregor had been stripped, White said: "We’ll see what happens.

"When you make an obscene amount of money, who knows if they’ll ever come back? Conor’s saying ’Maybe I’ll come back in August or September’, well that’s almost two years. That’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division.

"The division has to go on, these guys have been fighting their whole career and everyone wants to get to that pinnacle and it’s the fair thing to do.

"I like Conor McGregor but the division has to go on."

However, White added at the press conference, broadcast on the UFC’s official website, that McGregor could challenge the winner of Ferguson and Nurmagomedov on his return.

White said: "I think that this fight is ridiculous and after this fight happens whenever Conor does decide to come back I think it will be massive.

"Conor McGregor is not only one of the biggest stars in mixed martial arts but he’s one of the biggest stars in all of sports on earth."

Ferguson already believes he is the champion.

He said: "They offered me Conor and Conor didn’t want to fight. I’m not going to beg someone for a fight. This is the real belt. I am the champ, Conor McNuggets is nothing, I’m defending my belt."

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