Welterweight champion invites McGregor to challenge for third UFC belt

Tyron Woodley has thrown down the gauntlet to Conor McGregor as his absence from the octagon continues.

UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.
Image: Jason Silva

UFC WELTERWEIGHT CHAMPION Tyron Woodley has expressed his interest in welcoming Conor McGregor back to the octagon.

McGregor, the reigning UFC lightweight champion, hasn’t competed in mixed martial arts since he dethroned Eddie Alvarez to win the 155-pound title 14 months ago at Madison Square Garden.

UFC president Dana White is confident that McGregor will be back in action soon, with Tony Ferguson seemingly in pole position to be the Dubliner’s next opponent.

In McGregor’s absence, Ferguson defeated Kevin Lee in 2017 to be crowned interim lightweight champion. McGregor has also been linked to a clash with undefeated lightweight contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, as well as a trilogy bout against Nate Diaz.

However, Tyron Woodley also appears to be interested in facing the Irishman. Woodley, who has emerged from three title defences since taking the 170-pound title from Robbie Lawler in 2016, was asked during his role as a pundit on UFC Tonight on FOX Sports if McGregor should be stripped of his lightweight title due to inactivity.

“He likes to make history, he likes to break records,” Woodley said. “I say strip him. Then let him come up to welterweight and try to come for a third belt.”

Along with Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Georges St-Pierre, McGregor is one of four fighters to have conquered two separate weight divisions in the UFC’s 25-year history.

But no fighter has ever been a three-weight champion for the organisation. Eleven months before he overcame Eddie Alvarez, McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo to win the featherweight belt — which he was eventually stripped of due to not defending it.

Should he move up to face Tyron Woodley in a 170-pound contest, it wouldn’t be McGregor’s first outing at that weight. Both of the 29-year-old’s 2016 clashes with Nate Diaz — a submission loss followed by a majority-decision victory — were fought at welterweight.

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Woodley, whose last outing was a unanimous-decision win against Demian Maia in July, underwent surgery on a shoulder problem last month. However, the 35-year-old American has previously insisted that he’ll be ready to fight again in the first quarter of 2018.

2017 Christmas Package UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. Source: PA Wire

Before their respective bouts against Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in November 2016, Woodley and McGregor were involved in a backstage verbal altercation in New York.

Thompson remains the top-ranked contender in the welterweight division. However, having failed to overcome Woodley in two attempts, his chances of another imminent title shot appear slim.

Following his victory over former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler in December, ex-lightweight title-holder Rafael dos Anjos could be next in line to challenge Woodley.

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Paul Dollery

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