"Book it. I'm in!" - Conor McGregor happy with tournament idea for lightweight belt
Sign us up too.
Conor McGregor cut a respectful, loquacious figure at Thursday's UFC 257 press conference in Abu Dhabi, and thrust his hand up for an intriguing lightweight title proposition.
McGregor will fight Dustin Poirier in the UFC 257 main event on Sunday morning [around 4am GMT] and a win should put him straight back in the title picture. He praised his opponent on more than one occasion and had kind words for the other men on the dais, as well as vowing he was in the fight game for the long haul.
Current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is sticking to the retirement vow that he made after defending his belt in stunning style against Justin Gaethje, last October. UFC president Dana White has implied that Nurmagomedov may return if either of the fighters in this weekend's main event and co-main [Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler] does something "spectacular".
McGregor, for one, isn't buying it. "That's not what Khabib has said," the Dubliner declared. "That's what Dana is telling you."
Nurmagomedov feels he has proven himself to be the promotion's best ever lightweight and looks set for an extended spell away. Whether he is fully retired or not remains to be seen. Were he to insist that he has vacated the 155lbs strap, the UFC could well have a hell of a way of finding a new champion.
The idea of a lightweight tournament has been floated before, back when Tony Ferguson was one of the prime contenders, but a 2021 version may look a little different. At the press conference, today, BT Sport's Nick Peet floated the tournament idea again.
According to Peet - and he is on to something here - Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje are already in the semi-finals. That would mean the winner of McGregor-Poirier and Chandler-Hooker would take the final two semi spots. The winners of those two semis would then face off for Nurmagomedov's vacated belt. The response from the four fighters was as follows:
MCGREGOR: Book it. I'm in!
CHANDLER: Book in.
POIRIER: Let's go.
HOOKER: I didn't even understand the question, but I'm in!
— UFC on TNT Sports (@ufcontnt) January 21, 2021
McGregor and Poirier would both be justified in feeling a win in this weekend's main event would be enough to guarantee a title shot in their next fight.
However, should the UFC come up with an attractive April and July PPV package, ending in a lightweight champion being crowned, the division's main men could easily get on-board.