UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor has taken some time off in order to prepare for the birth of his first child, and because of that, the UFC announced this week that they would hold a title fight to crown an interim lightweight champion until he returns. Conor's head coach, John Kavanagh, never one to hide his true thoughts, had the most amazing response to the announcement.
The interim belt used to be reserved for rare circumstances when a champion was unable to defend their title for an extended period of time (upwards of a year), but it seems that lately, interim titles have been handed out for the sole purpose of increasing the interest in a fight.
A prime example of this is the interim featherweight title awarded to the winner of the Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis fight at UFC 206. Just weeks before the fight, Conor McGregor held the featherweight title. But interest in #UFC206 was waning since the original headliner (a light heavyweight title fight) was cancelled due to injury.
So, the UFC did a little rearranging and made Jose Aldo the featherweight champion (after Conor reluctantly "relinquished" the belt due to holding two titles), and then made the new main event for UFC 206 an interim title fight. For what reason, we aren't exactly sure, because the new champion wasn't injured, or on an extended leave.
Now, the UFC has announced an interim title fight between #1 ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov and #2 ranked Tony Ferguson.
This fight DOES make sense as an interim title for a few reasons. The first being that Conor is AWOL, at least until September, and holding up one of the most stacked divisions would be an abomination. Secondly, the question about who should get the next title shot is hotly debated. Both Tony and Khabib have compelling reasons for being the most deserving, and this fight will settle the score and then leave room for the lightweight unification fight for when McGregor returns.