Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is making an effort to clear things up in the lightweight division, putting top contender Tony Ferguson to work against streaking 155-pound up-and-comer Kevin Lee.
Instead, it made things a bit more complicated.
Ferguson defeated Lee by way of submission in the UFC 216 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last night (Sat., Oct. 7, 2017) inside T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, winning the interim lightweight strap in the process.
Why the promotion decided to institute a temporary title when reigning division kingpin Conor McGregor is once again competing in mixed martial arts (MMA) and planning to make a return at the end of the year is unclear.
The time for an interim title was back in January, when “Notorious” announced he was taking a 10-month leave of absence to help care for his newborn son, which may or may not have been a smokescreen to finagle a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.
One that ended in a tenth-round technical knockout loss, but hey, defeat is much easier to digest when it pays a gazillion dollars.
So now that Ferguson has the interim title to complement his 10 straight wins, it doesn’t make sense to have two champions running around the same division. Not that is stopped UFC from creating — and maintaining — two belts at 185 pounds.
Robert Whittaker won the interim strap by turning away Yoel Romero, but current titleholder Michael Bisping was able to keep “The Reaper” on ice while he makes his millions battling former PPV king Georges St-Pierre.
And that’s what worries me.
Giving Ferguson a belt to keep warm is almost like a gesture of goodwill for the fans, so that McGregor can keep doing ... well, whatever the hell he wants. A rubber match against welterweight nemesis Nate Diaz is a much bigger payday than a Ferguson fight.
“I’m just going to put a few options out there and see what bounces back,” McGregor said just last week. “It’s got to excite me, let me see what these two fools do this weekend. We’ll see what the energy is like.”
It also doesn’t help that promotion president Dana White is considering a fight between McGregor and division No. 1 contender Khabib Nurmagomedov, who can’t seem to stay healthy long enough to remain relevant.
That would leave Ferguson on the outside looking in (like he’s not pissed enough as it is).
I suppose we should be used to it by now, the way UFC just makes shit up as it goes along. I understand the “sport vs. prizefighting” debate and I know the promotion is in the business of making money, but I can’t help but wonder why it has to come at the expense of divisional integrity.
Why don’t we just do this?
Ferguson needs to fight McGregor to unify the titles. It’s been said that styles make fights. It doesn’t. Money does. And that’s okay, but there is really no point in having these if they don’t mean anything.
The ball, as usual, is in McGregor’s court.