Dana White reveals plans for interim UFC title bout in Conor McGregor's absence
The UFC president plans to pair Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee on Oct. 7 at UFC 216
As UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor inches closer to one year of inactivity from the Octagon while preparing for his Aug. 26 boxing pay-per-view match with Floyd Mayweather, Dana White has a plan in mind for the 155-pound division.
The UFC president announced Tuesday he's going to crown an interim lightweight champion, most likely at UFC 216 on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas. White's preferred bout would be a meeting between top contender Tony Ferguson (22-3) and the red-hot Kevin Lee (16-2).
The name not mentioned above is Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0), who was pulled from an interim title bout against Ferguson at UFC 209 in March when he was hospitalized for a difficult weight cut.
"Khabib is not ready," White told media members in Las Vegas. "He had surgery and he's just not ready. It is what it is."
Lee, 24, would seem like a curious choice despite riding a five-fight win streak. He's fresh off a somewhat controversial submission of Michael Chiesa in June and hasn't fought anyone on the same level as Ferguson as of yet. Moreover, the division has recently bottlenecked due to McGregor's inactivity to open 2017 while taking paternity leave.
Ferguson, 33, has been waiting patiently for an opponent since the Nurmagomedov fight fell apart. "El Cucuy" is fresh off a dominant nine-fight win streak but hasn't fought since his destruction of former champion Rafael dos Anjos last November.
While the fight is not yet official, White made sure to stamp home that these are the two fighters he is targeting for the interim championship. The decision appears to be just another in a long line of short-sighted choices by the promotion in 2017 as PPV numbers have dipped while many of UFC's top stars sat idle for various reasons.
Not only will UFC be releasing yet another interim title into the mix, thus slightly watering down the value of its full championship, it's promoting Lee into a position that he has not yet earned.
Former champion Eddie Alvarez, who was booked to coach opposite newcomer Justin Gaethje on "The Ultimate Fighter," and Nate Diaz, who won't return unless he's handsomely paid, would have been much more deserving as opponents. So would Nurmagomedov had UFC simply waited for him to recover.
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