Most of the fighters who will compete at Saturday(EST) night’s card at TD Garden believe the time has come for the UFC to strip the belt from McGregor, the division’s absentee champ.
Finally Khabib will face Tony Ferguson for the Interim lightweight title (we are guessing because title stakes still unclear) on April 7 at UFC 223.
“There are a lot of hungry-ass people in that weight class coming up,” said Calvin Kattar at Thursday’s UFC 220 media day at Fenway Park. “I wouldn’t say anything, all I can say, more than being anti-Conor, it’s about these guys being deserving of their shot. I can see why Conor wants to sit back. He’s got Conor money now. He doesn’t need the belt, he can fight when he wants to and who he wants to and props to him for getting his career to there.”
Katter’s opponent (Shane Burgos) said “The dude hasn’t defended in over a year, he hasn’t competed in over a year. He didn’t defend the featherweight title either. And then on top of that, you’ve got two really top-notch guys who deserve their chance. It would be disrespectful to those two guys to not strip him, he said he wants to come back in September, that’s almost two years [since he won the title]. You have to strip him at this point.”
(Thomas Almeida) “Khabib and Tony deserve this,” Almeida said. “They are the champs, you know, they are the best in the division and they’re going to fight. I think the best choice for the division is to make that winner the champ.”
His opponent Rob Font’s statement is “If he’s going to hold it up, if he’s going to take a year, 15 months, whatever, I definitely think they should strip him and give the Tony-Khabib winner a legit title fight and go from there,” said Font. “Then obviously when he comes back give him the first title fight from there.”
Daniel Cormier believes that for the integrity of the division, McGregor needs to be stripped of the belt.
“I don’t think it matters really much to Conor, because I don’t think he needs a belt anymore. He’s money no matter who he fights, with or without a belt. It doesn’t really matter. But I think for the legitimacy of the sport and the spirit of competition, they really have to [strip him of the belt].”
There was one fighter willing to say McGregor should be allowed to hold the belt indefinitely. That would be light heavyweight Gian Villante.
“Conor is great for the UFC, so you gotta somehow keep him relevant,” Villante said. “If he still has the UFC belt, then he’s relevant for the UFC. I think you gotta keep him relevant for as long as you can. If he decides to fight again, it should be for a championship because he had two of them for a long time. He shouldn’t be stripped of them. He’s good for the sport. He’s good for me, he’s good for the guy next to me, he’s good for all of us, because of how many eyes he brings to us. It’s not a bad thing.”
“I understand why those guys want to be called champ,” Villante said. “Khabib is like 40-0, it’s crazy. He should be the undisputed champion. That guy is an animal. But I don’t think he should complain about [whether or not he’s fighting for an interim title], because if he wins, unifying the belts with Conor is the biggest payday he’s ever going to have in his life. Why complain about it?”