A lot of hay has been made over the UFC’s decision to strip Conor McGregor of his featherweight title, a move many feel was prompted solely so they could give their injury ridden UFC 206 card in Toronto a title fight. But UFC president Dana White is sick of people assuming the UFC and McGregor are at odds, and tried to clear the air on the UFC Unfiltered podcast earlier this week (via BJPenn.com).
“Everybody always thinks there’s some type of animosity between me and Conor and there’s always something bad brewing,” he said. “Listen, I don’t know how much more I can say it publicly how much I respect the guy, how different and special he is and everything else. And then all this stuff going on with that title that I ‘stripped him of the title.’ I didn’t strip him of anything, do you know what I mean? I said every day leading up to that fight he had to give up one of those belts. What do you think that I just went ‘eeney meeney miny mo, I pick the 145 pound belt.’ No, he gave up the 145 pound title.”
There’s some Ronda Rousey level judo going on with the truth here. While it’s true that White had always proclaimed that McGregor would have to give up a title should he end up holding two belts after UFC 205, the fact that you always intended to strip him of the title doesn’t negate the fact that you did it. Especially in the manner in which the UFC did it — suddenly, without fanfare, and largely in order to make the Max Holloway vs Anthony Pettis fight in Toronto for another interim featherweight belt.
As Ariel Helwani noted on last week’s MMA Hour when the decision was revealed, the only similar situation was when Georges St. Pierre gave up his welterweight title to go into semi-retirement. When that happened, the UFC held a press conference and made a big deal of the whole thing. This time? No fanfare at all. No statement from the UFC. No statement from Conor McGregor. In the eyes of many fans, it cheapened not only the UFC belt, but McGregor’s accomplishments in becoming the first man to win two belts at the same time.
McGregor’s only response to the decision was to apply for boxing licenses in several states, which would seem to indicate he’s getting tired of the UFC’s ‘My way or the highway’ treatment. But later on he appeared on Instagram with both his belts, saying he still considered himself a two division champion regardless of what anyone else said. As far as White is concerned, that’s the right attitude to take.
“We don’t actually take the belt, that’s his belt,” White said on the FOX Sports Jay And Dan Show. “You can’t take away the accomplishment, he accomplished that. He won two belts at the same time, held them both at the same time. Nobody has ever done that. He’s the only one to ever do that in UFC history. Yeah, nobody beat him. He vacated it. So, for him to consider himself the champ, he can.”