NEW YORK (AP) — Conor McGregor’s run as UFC lightweight champion is set to end.
The long-expected move that McGregor would lose his 155-belt was officially announced by UFC President Dana White at a press conference for Saturday’s pay-per-view card at Barclays Center. McGregor has not fought for UFC since he won the 155-pound title at UFC 205 in November 2016. McGregor last fought at all in a boxing match he lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Aug. 26, 2017.
White had not announced he would officially strip McGregor of the championship until Wednesday when he discussed the popular Irish fighter’s return to UFC this year.
“Conor McGregor is 100 percent coming back this year,” White said.
White said he did not expect McGregor to attend the fight.
The UFC 223 main event of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Max Holloway will be for the lightweight championship. Nurmagomedov was originally scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson. Holloway already holds the 145-pound featherweight belt, and moved up to 155 pounds on less than one week’s notice.
Ferguson had been the 155-pound interim champion in McGregor’s absence and remained the No. 1 contender in the division.
“We’re not stripping Tony Ferguson,” White said. “Tony Ferguson isn’t being stripped. The only one that’s losing a belt here is Conor. Conor is losing the belt. These two are fighting for the belt.”
Once the fight starts, McGregor will no longer be champion and the need for the interim belt will go away — leaving the winner as the true 155-pound champ.
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov had been booked to fight each other four times, yet all four fights have been called off.
White was hesitant to book a fifth fight between the two but could be forced to should Nurmagomedov walk out the champ.
“It’s the last fight on earth that I want to make again,” White said. “However this thing plays out on Saturday, we’ll go from there. Tony is still the No. 1 ranked guy in the world either way, no matter who wins. I’ll deal with that when it’s time to deal with it.”