The purpose of an interim title, from my understanding, is to establish a champion — and keep the assembly line moving — while the original titleholder is absent from competition for an undetermined period of time.
For Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), it’s used to market main events, like the lightweight showdown between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje at UFC 249. With current 155-pound champion Khabib Nurmagomedov returning in late summer or early fall, there’s really no justifiable reason to create a substitute strap.
Which is probably why “The Highlight” made these comments.
In the case of heavyweight contenders Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruick, however, there is legitimate case to be made for an interim belt. Stipe Miocic has not defended his title since avenging his loss to Daniel Cormier last August and already told the promotion he’s got no immediate plans to return.
Partly because he’s struggling with his health, but mostly because he wants to fight someone other than “DC.” Either way, UFC was not hearing any of that interim title talk from Ngannou, who like Rozenstruik, is not feeling overly optimistic about the future of the division.
“We even requested [an interim title] to the UFC, but actually they weren’t interested in all that,” Ngannou told MMA Fighting. “The fact is nobody knows when it’s going to be decided for the title in the heavyweight division again. It’s soon going to be one year, which is something very frustrating and makes me [not] want to think about it.”
Cormier may or may not retire before his planned trilogy with Miocic as the Olympian is already well past his expiration date. That could depend on how quickly the world recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions that came with it.
“Let’s say after May 9 happens and I beat this guy, what’s next?” Ngannou continued. “It’s just kind of a blind spot out there, the UFC has to clear that out and let the heavyweight division know exactly what is the plan, what they’re going to do. I don’t think we’re going to be waiting for people. No disrespect for Stipe or [Cormier], but I don’t think it’s fair that we just sit here and wait to fight. As I said, I requested that, but there was no interest. So why wouldn’t I be down for that since I asked for it? I think the division should move on.”