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Dana White says Ferguson-Khabib winner will become undisputed lightweight champ

However, the UFC president stopped short of confirming that Conor McGregor has been stripped of the title.

Screen Shot 2018-01-19 at 23.00.03 Tony Ferguson, Dana White and Khabib Nurmagomedov at tonight's press conference.

DANA WHITE WAS expected to clarify the current situation in the UFC’s lightweight division this evening. However, the UFC president’s appearance at a press conference in Boston only served to further obscure an already unclear picture.

There had been speculation this week that White would use the opportunity to confirm that Conor McGregor has been stripped of the lightweight title, as a result of his failure to defend the belt in the 14 months since he won it.

At this evening’s press conference, White was flanked by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, who won the interim lightweight title by defeating Kevin Lee last October. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson will fight at UFC 223 in Brooklyn on 7 April.

After introducing Ferguson, White called the 33-year-old Californian “the champ”, while the UFC’s on-screen caption also referred to him as “UFC lightweight champion” — insinuating that Ferguson had been promoted from interim to undisputed title-holder.

But that’s when things started to become ambiguous. Matt Erickson of MMAjunkie kicked the press conference off by asking White for an update on McGregor’s situation.

“I have no update,” was the UFC president’s response. “The winner of this fight will be the champion.”

When asked if that meant McGregor has been stripped of the title, White said: “We’ll see what happens.”

White added: “Conor is saying ‘maybe I’ll come back in August, maybe I’ll come back in September’, but that’s almost two years [since he won the title]. That’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division. The division has to go on.”

Source: UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship/YouTube

McGregor defeated Eddie Alvarez to win the UFC lightweight title in November 2016. But owing to the birth of his first child and a lack of agreement on financial terms with the UFC — as well as a professional boxing bout against Floyd Mayweather — the 29-year-old Dubliner hasn’t appeared in the octagon since.

Tonight’s press conference then meandered off in a different direction, until ESPN’s Brett Okamoto and Ariel Helwani of MMAFighting.com returned to the issue of McGregor’s lightweight title reign in search of clarity.

White admitted that the winner of the UFC 223 bout between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov will be crowned undisputed lightweight champion, yet bizarrely he continued to sidestep questions regarding McGregor’s status in the equation.

“It’s undisputed. The guy who wins this fight will be the champion. They’re going to fight for the title. This is the real title. I said that Conor can’t hold up the title for two years.”

He added: “Did I say that he [McGregor] has been stripped of the title? Next question, please.”

Confused? You’re not the only one. The full press conference can be viewed in the video above.

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Paul Dollery

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