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Conor McGregor looking to 'legitimize' UFC lightweight title and restore divisional order

MMA: UFC 205-McGregor vs Alvarez Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Now that UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor is done “taking over” the boxing world, the Irishman is left to rule over a hungry 155-pound division. Considering McGregor has already been stripped of a UFC title for divisional inactivity he must do everything in his power to actually defend the lightweight belt.

We didn’t quite know for sure where McGregor’s head was at following his knockout loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. this past August, but “Notorious” shed some light on his desire to “legitimize” the lightweight rankings and finally make good on his championship status.

“Look, I’ve got the UFC title to defend and that means something to me. I will defend that world title,” McGregor said yesterday (Fri., Sept. 29, 2017) during an exclusive Q&A from inside the SEC Armadillo auditorium in Glasgow, Scotland (h/t MMA Fighting).

“Nathan (Nate Diaz) is there. He’s trying to come in here and make all of these demands. If he starts pricing himself out of an event, I probably will defend against the person who wins this interim belt…or someone along that line to legitimize it again.

“I’ve already gone from the highest of the high in terms of a money fight. Now the question I always get is about defending the belt and legitimizing the sport and the rankings.

“Maybe now it would be a good time for me to go and do that and shut that side up.”

As of now, Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee are scheduled to duke it out for interim lightweight title rights at UFC 216 on Oct. 7 live on pay-per-view (PPV) from Las Vegas, Nevada. The winner would presumably have an inside track in facing McGregor his next time out, especially if the UFC lightweight king is aiming to defend his title sooner rather than later.

“Again, we’ll see what happens in the fight (next) week,” McGregor said. “I hope they make the walk. I’ve seen it so many times where they slip on the bleedin’ soap getting out of the bath,” he said.

“Honestly, I feel like in the Tony and Khabib fight, they were in a game of chicken of whose going to pull out first.

Whichever option McGregor chooses next you better believe the 29-year-old superstar is going to bank loads of cash. But since McGregor just landed a once-in-a-lifetime payday opposite Mayweather, he’s looking to correct the lightweight title picture before chasing anymore money fights.

“I’ve done the money fight. I’ve done the pinnacle of a money fight – I fought for the money belt – the WBC money belt it was called,” said McGregor regarding the Mayweather bout.

“In my head now, I’m very interested in seeing this fight this weekend and to see how the lightweight title picture pans out and to go in and correct that whole situation. That’s where my thoughts are.

“I also have history with Nate. It’s 1-1 and that has to happen. It will happen. The more I spend time away from it, I think I’ve already done all of the money fights. Now, to legitimize a title and to bring it back, I could potentially bring it back.

“That’s a little bit exciting for me. I’ll see how this whole title picture plays out and we’ll go from there.”

It will be interesting to see which matchup McGregor and UFC come to terms with in the near future, but it’s becoming more and more likely that “Notorious” will unify the UFC lightweight title his next time out. That means Ferguson and Lee will be competing for a career-changing payday at UFC 216 in addition to the interim strap.

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