The UFC lightweight division is still up in the air after Dana White’s latest comments about the title picture following UFC 258.
After Dustin Poirier knocked out Conor McGregor at UFC 257 and Michael Chandler knocked out Dan Hooker at the same event, it was believed the title picture was down to four men – Poirier, Chandler, Charles Oliveira and champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
With the Russian adamant that he is retired and has no plans of returning to the cage, it looked destined to be Poirier taking on either of Chandler or Oliveira in a bout for the title.
The UFC seemed to be pulling in the same direction, offering a fight between Chandler and Oliveira on short notice for UFC 258 which Chandler accepted, but Oliveira turned it down. It now seems that the president of the company is opting to buy more time in the battle to get Khabib to return for one more fight, by creating an unofficial mini tournament for the belt.
According to White Oliveira didn’t turn down a fight with Chandler specifically, he just turned down a short-notice fight. He now believes that fight could serve as a bracket for a tournament he is planning in his head, which would be headlined by the trilogy fight between Poirier and McGregor this summer.
Speaking exclusively to ESPN, White said:
“When you have two guys – Dustin who’s the No. 1 guy in the world ,and a guy like Conor – and they both want it that badly, you do it. These guys (at lightweight) are all going to fight it out and we will narrow it down to the two guys that will face off for the title.
What’s fun for us, being the fans, if you look at the No. 1 ranked guy in the world, Dustin Poirier, all the way down to No. 7, Rafael dos Anjos, the fights that can be made to find out who becomes the next champion are unbelievable. So we’re in for some incredible fights to find out which two of these guys from 1 to 7 will square off to become the next world champion.”
With seven fighters name checked as potential contestants in this “tournament” it sets up some fun fights. We already know it will be Poirier vs McGregor 3 and the assumption is that Chandler will fight against Oliveira. That leaves Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Dos Anjos left to battle it out.
None of the three currently have a fight scheduled, but Gaethje and Ferguson fought just last year – with the former winning in dominant fashion by way of a fifth round stoppage. With Dos Anjos winning comfortably on his return to the division against Paul Felder on short notice, the obvious choice would be to pair the two of them together.
That leaves Ferguson as the odd man out but with Islam Makachev scheduled to fight Drew Dober at UFC 259, a win for Khabib’s training partner could see him enter the bracket to fight Ferguson next and work his way up towards the top of the mountain.
All this would leave Dana White more time to try and convince Khabib to return, while also setting up spectacular fights throughout the year and at the end what we’ll have is a legitimate champion who earned their way to the belt.
That’s what everyone wants, right?