Prior to UFC 202 in August, where Conor McGregor stepped into the Octagon to avenge his UFC 196 loss to Nate Diaz, UFC President Dana White stated that after the fight, McGregor must either drop back down to featherweight to defend his belt against interim champion Jose Aldo, or vacate the belt.
After McGregor defeated Diaz via majority decision on the record breaking card, he remained openly confident that his next fight would take place at lightweight, despite the fact that Dana White was adamant about him either returning to 145, or vacating the belt.
It didn’t take long before McGregor signed to fight UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in the main event of UFC 205 on November 12th in a fight which could see him crowned the first ever simultaneous two-division UFC champ. Despite that, many fighters have begun to call for the UFC brass to strip McGregor of the featherweight championship given that he has yet to defend the belt since winning it nearly a year ago.
Now, Chael Sonnen is speaking out against those fighters, stating on a recent episode of ‘Beyond The Fight:
“I’ve never heard anybody come out and speak on Conor’s behalf and say he ought to be able to hold that belt. I’m sure there’s people who think that, but I’ve never heard anyone say it – from the media to the TV, I’ve never heard anyone say it.”
“Now we’ve got fighters in weight classes that have no standing in this matter, who I imagine is just coming from a standpoint of jealousy, and they’re saying, ‘You should strip him. Gotta strip him, gotta move that division on.'”
“I can’t believe people don’t understand this who are in the industry. To acknowledge how dumb fighters are, and I’m not trying to insult them, there’s just not another word out there – they’re dumb. To understand a fighter’s lack of understanding of the business standpoint – how important media partners are and understanding what a promoter – they don’t get it.”
“I’ll take the mask off and I’ll tell you guys what’s going on here. There’s a historic opportunity if Conor beats Eddie Alvarez. The opportunity is that he will be the first guy in history to hold two world championships simultaneously in the UFC. It has never happened before.”
“If you are the UFC and through the power of the pen you take one of those belts away, you also lose the opportunity that so much media is running with to have the historic opportunity. If you wait to strip him or make a decision in that weight class til after the fight, you preserve that opportunity. That is so obvious. The UFC can’t come out and say that there’s a marketing opportunity there, because then they lose it.”