It’s been a complicated and frustrating time for the UFC lightweight division this past 18 months. Come UFC 223, we should finally have some clarification, but at what cost to the UFC?

The UFC lightweight division has been without a champion since the belt last changed hand in November 2016. Certainly he’s been there in the rankings, but Irish superstar Conor McGregor has only fought once since winning the belt and that was in boxing.

Of course, McGregor went where the real money was. Boxing Floyd Mayweather in August last year made more sense than defending the title in the UFC, at least from a monetary standpoint.

Where the 155-pound belt is concerned, McGregor has remained in the championship spot. Regardless of the fact it’s been so long, 18 months now, ‘The Notorious’ has kept the belt courtesy of his cash-driven employers.

Since the announcement of UFC 223’s main event, the timer has been counting down on McGregor’s inactive title reign.

Mandatory Credit: USA TODAY Sports.

Dana White Finally Admits It’s Over

When Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov was confirmed for UFC 223, McGregor’s absence became a sticking point. Would the promotion, who couldn’t even estimate a return date for their biggest star, really put on another interim title fight.

The answer, according to Dana White, is nope. During an interview with TMZ today, the baldfather says McGregor understands he has to relinquish the title. White also said that McGregor’s return could now have been pushed back as far as September:

“I said in the last press conference that fight will be for the title. It’s not for the interim title. That fight is for the real title.”

“Conor understands. Listen, Conor made a lot of money and he wants some time off, but the division has to go on and the business has to go on,” White said.

White also indicated that a rematch between McGregor and Mayweather would only make sense ‘in the UFC.’ Could this have been the plan all along?

Khabib rains down on Barboza. Photo by Gary Vasquez, USA Today.

UFC 223 Fight Card

Event: UFC 223: “Ferguson vs. Khabib”
Date: Sat., April 7, 2018
Location: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
Broadcast: Pay-Per-View (PPV), FOX Sports 1, UFC Fight Pass

UFC 223 PPV Main Event:

155 lbs.: Confirmed: UFC Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

UFC 223 PPV Co-Main Event:

115 lbs.: UFC Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

UFC 223 Main Card, Prelims:

155 lbs.: Joe Lauzon vs. Chris Gruetzemacher
155 lbs.: Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta
115 lbs.: Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
125 lbs.: Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
145 lbs.: Alex Caceres vs. Artem Lobov
155 lbs.: Michael Chiesa vs. Anthony Pettis
145 lbs.: Calvin Kattar vs. Renato Moicano
125 lbs.: Bec Rawlings vs. Ashlee Evans-Smith
145 lbs.: Kyle Bochniak vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov

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