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McGregor defiant as UFC confirm his reign as champion ends this weekend

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway will fight for the undisputed lightweight title at UFC 223 in Brooklyn.

UFC 205: Alvarez v McGregor Conor McGregor with the UFC featherweight and lightweight belts at UFC 205 in November 2016. Source: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

AS KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV and Max Holloway get set to clash this weekend, UFC president Dana White has reiterated that the fight will officially bring an end to Conor McGregor’s reign as a champion.

McGregor hasn’t competed in a mixed martial arts bout since he became the first fighter in UFC history to hold two titles simultaneously by defeating Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden in November 2016.

However, the Dubliner failed to defend either the featherweight or lightweight crowns. The 145-pound belt he won from Jose Aldo in December 2015 was stripped from McGregor shortly after his win over Alvarez. He’ll relinquish the 155-pound strap on Saturday night when Nurmagomedov and Holloway contest the main event at UFC 223 in Brooklyn.

Nurmagomedov was originally scheduled to face Tony Ferguson, who won an interim lightweight title last October by overcoming Kevin Lee. But Holloway, the reigning featherweight champion, was drafted in as a late replacement last Sunday after Ferguson was forced to withdraw from Saturday’s clash with Nurmagomedov due to injury.

Speaking last night at a press conference in Brooklyn, UFC president Dana White explained that although Ferguson’s interim belt will essentially become null and void this weekend, he’ll remain the top contender at lightweight. The winner of the meeting of Nurmagomedov and Holloway will replace McGregor at the summit of the division.

UFC 223: Press Conference Dana White flanked by Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway at last night's press conference. Source: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

“Tony Ferguson isn’t being stripped,” White insisted. “The only one that’s losing the belt here is Conor. Conor is losing the belt and these two are fighting for the belt. One of these guys [Nurmagomedov or Holloway] will be the champion. Tony is still the number one contender.”

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McGregor took to Twitter this morning and responded defiantly to White’s comments, expressing — in his own inimitable way — his reluctance to part with his title.

White, who has repeatedly mentioned September as a potential return date for McGregor, remains adamant that the Irish star will be back in the octagon in 2018.

“Conor is coming back this year, 100%,” said the UFC president. “He will fight this year. We’ll see how this thing plays out and we’ll go from there.”

In spite of his assertion that Tony Ferguson is in pole position to face the winner of Saturday’s headline bout, White seems averse to the idea of pairing Ferguson with Nurmagomedov again. This latest cancellation represents the fourth time a potential bout between the pair has fallen through since December 2015.

“It’s the last fight on earth I want to make again,” White said.

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Paul Dollery

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