The UFC Lines Up Conor McGregor’s Next Opponent With An Interim Lightweight Title Fight

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Depending on who you believe, Conor McGregor is going to either retire immediately after making a hundred million bucks off his fight against Floyd Mayweather, or he’ll be fighting in the UFC again by the end of the year. But who would he defend his lightweight title against he does come back? It looks like the UFC is setting up an answer to this question with the announcement of an interim lightweight bout between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee at UFC 216.

The inclusion of Ferguson is no surprise to anyone. He’s been at the top of the 155 pound division for a while now with nine straight victories. Kevin Lee, on the other hand, has some people scratching their heads. According to the UFC rankings, he’s way down the list at #7, and the best win on his current five fight streak is Michael Chiesa. But a closer look at the upper echelons of lightweight explains things.

Khabib Nurmagomedov? Recovering from surgery. Edson Barboza as well. Eddie Alvarez and Justin Gaethje are coaching the next season of TUF. And Nate Diaz? He’s just being Nate Diaz, and doesn’t sound particularly interested in fighting at all.

The UFC obviously had a gap at the top of UFC 216 that needed a title fight, and they needed to set something up so Conor McGregor would have an opponent waiting for him if / when he comes back. But making this an interim fight seems slightly off, not just because the UFC has been getting a bit interim-crazy lately, but because it effectively locks the winner in as someone McGregor has to fight. And if Kevin Lee wins, we doubt that’s a match up the big game hunting Irishman will be interested in.

We have to wonder what’s going on behind closed doors for the UFC to move forward with Ferguson vs. Lee rather than the much anticipated Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov fight. Those are the two McGregor has talked about fighting in the past, but injuries, weight issues, and scheduling issues due to Ramadan have made Nurmagomedov a difficult fighter to get in the cage. It’s the fight everyone wants, though. It’s the fight McGregor wanted to see before coming back to defend his belt. The UFC is seriously limiting their options regarding their biggest draw just so they can have the appearance of a title fight at the top of a random pay-per-view event.