Now that UFC plans on stripping inactive lightweight champion Conor McGregor once one punch is thrown between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 on April 7, the rest of the 155-pound division can breathe a sigh of relief.
Since claiming the UFC lightweight strap with a knockout win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205 in New York City, “Notorious” has not only failed to defend the title, but he hasn’t even competed in mixed martial arts (MMA). Instead, McGregor has dedicated his time to scoring a once-in-a-lifetime payday opposite undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. this past summer, essentially putting his UFC career on ice for what is now 16 months.
As a result, the UFC lightweight division has been operating without an active champion, which has rubbed some of the better names in the top 15 the wrong way. For an aspiring title contender like former Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Chiesa, McGregor getting stripped of the title is a welcomed sight.
“The biggest thing we need, is we need movement,” Chiesa said during a recent appearance on Submission Radio (shown above). “The 155-pound division has been log-jammed so many times. When Anthony was champion he had some injuries that held him out for a while, you know, so the division got jammed up. And then we had some movement, and then Conor [McGregor] won the title and we’re jammed up again, and you know, you just gotta keep the wheels in motion.
“It’s just good to see. Conor’s a two-time champion, but he can’t just sit and hold the belt and keep us all waiting. You know, there’s a lot of tough guys jockeying for their position to be number one, and you only have so much time in this sport, so you can’t let one guy rob a bunch of us of our opportunities to fight for the belt.”
Even though a title fight between Ferguson and Khabib should help create some sort of order at 155 pounds, “Maverick” understands that McGregor will get the first crack at the belt when he decides to return to MMA. That means Chiesa will have to wait even longer to get his hands on his own title shot.
“You gotta expect that [McGregor]’s going to fight the winner of [Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson]. You know what I mean?” explained Chiesa. “So, the way I look at it is, by the time I get to fight for the title, I think McGregor will kind of be out of the equation. I still gotta get through Anthony Pettis, I still probably got two more fights before I’m number one contender, and I think in that time span he would have moved on.
“I think he’ll come back, fight Khabib or Ferguson, probably Nate and then he’ll be on with himself, and I think by then it would be perfect timing for me to jump in and be champion. So, I’m not all too worried about that, I’m just focused on myself, I’m focused on the task at hand. I can’t stress too much about the future and what’s going on with Conor.”
First things first, Chiesa must get through former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis when the two meet at UFC 223 in Brooklyn, New York. It will be Chiesa’s first Octagon appearance since getting choked out by Kevin Lee at UFC Fight Night 112.