Dana White created interim featherweight belt because of huge logjam

·Combat columnist
UFC president Dana White (L) laughs with Conor McGregor at a news conference last month in New York. (Getty Images)
UFC president Dana White (L) laughs with Conor McGregor at a news conference last month in New York. (Getty Images)

There were a lot of disappointed fans when the UFC announced that Conor McGregor had given up the featherweight title he’d won at UFC 194 by knocking out Jose Aldo in just 13 seconds.

There was also speculation, including from John Kavanagh, McGregor’s highly respected coach, that the decision wasn’t McGregor’s. UFC president Dana White vehemently disputed that contention in an interview Thursday with Yahoo Sports.

McGregor won the lightweight belt at UFC 205 on Nov. 12 when he stopped Eddie Alvarez in the second round. White promised at the post-fight news conference that night that McGregor would be forced to make a decision which belt he wanted to keep, and on Sunday, it was announced he’d decided to keep the lightweight.

McGregor hasn’t commented publicly, though, and so Kavanagh’s words attracted a lot of attention.

They felt they had to make this for a title in order for it to sell so they brought in another interim title that Jose Aldo already has and then bumped Jose Aldo up to the current undisputed champion. Which just seems ridiculous to me.

Conor has only been (champ) 11 months since he won that title. There have been many, many examples of fighters waiting 15 months, 18 months before defending it. He’s 11 months and they stripped him of it. I thought it was very short-sighted by the UFC how they went about doing it.

White said McGregor decided on his own to give up the belt. And because there hadn’t been a title defense yet in 2016, White said he decided to elevate Aldo from interim champion to regular champion and have Anthony Pettis and Max Holloway fight for the interim belt in the main event of UFC 206 on Dec. 10 in Toronto.

Since losing to McGregor in Boston on Aug. 17, 2013, Holloway has reeled off nine consecutive victories.

“Look, I let Conor fight [Nate] Diaz and then I let him fight Diaz again,” White said of matches at UFC 196 and UFC 202, respectively, that the fighters split. “Then there was the whole 155-pound thing I let him do. But at the end of the day, him doing that tied up the division for a year. There’s a logjam there and a lot of guys were [angry].

“This was my way to fix the logjam. I wanted Aldo to fight Holloway for the belt, but he needed more time. So I looked at it and I said, well, it makes sense to make Aldo the champion and then have Holloway and Pettis fight for the interim title, and when Jose’s ready, barring any crazy injuries, the winner can fight him.”

White was surprised to learn of Kavanagh’s comments and denied he’d unilaterally stripped McGregor of the featherweight belt.

“He’s misinformed,” White said of Kavanagh. “Yeah, he doesn’t know all that has gone on, I guess. Do you think I just did this? This was Conor’s decision.”

McGregor obtained a California boxing license on Wednesday, and much has been read into that. It increased speculation that he’d fight retired superstar boxer Floyd Mayweather, but Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe squashed those rumors in an interview with ESPN.

It’s all a game. It’s all a calculated effort to gain more fans. He got a boxing license. Congratulations to him. Conor McGregor can say anything he wants to but he has a boss and his name is Dana White. He is under contract to the UFC and if he wanted to fight Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match he can’t because his bosses wouldn’t allow that to happen. The brass who recently purchased the UFC are very smart people and they would never — and put this in bold caps — let him step into a boxing ring with Floyd Mayweather because everyone knows what the outcome would be. He would get his ass beat from pillar to post.

White told Yahoo Sports on Thursday that a bout with Mayweather won’t happen, reiterating a statement he made in May.

“I have no idea what Conor is doing,” White told Yahoo Sports when asked his opinion of McGregor obtaining a boxing license. “Conor’s Conor. He does his thing. But he’s under contract to me. Who knows with this guy? Who knows what he is up to. I just let Conor be Conor. And the other thing is, it’s fun to talk about this fight and what might happen, but what commission would let that fight happen? Really, think about that.”

It’s just McGregor doing a brilliant job of keeping his name in the news, even when he’s on the sidelines.