By this point, we’ve all woken up, pinched ourselves, and come to grips with the unfortunate reality that Tony Ferguson’s UFC 223 withdrawal was not an elaborate April Fools joke or a nightmare. The interim lightweight champ really has been forced out of the fight with a leg injury—a leg injury he sustained while he was walking, if you can believe that.
The good news is that we get a solid consolation prize. Nurmagomedov will still fight on the card, taking on a beefed up version of UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway, who steps up on just six days notice. The two will battle for the undisputed lightweight title.
Though Holloway is a great replacement opponent for Nurmagomedov, it didn’t take long for fans to start questioning why Conor McGregor didn’t step up. After all, the Irishman—who still technically owns the UFC lightweight title—recently claimed he was staying ready.
According to UFC President Dana White, who spoke to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto shortly after this Tony Ferguson news broke, the reason it was Holloway and not McGregor who stepped up are twofold.
First, the UFC wasn’t keen on promoting McGregor’s return on just 6 days notice. He is the biggest star in the promotion’s history, and they understandably want adequate time to sell his highly anticipated comeback. Second, there was doubt McGregor could even make the lightweight division’s 155-pound limit on 6 days notice.
“I don’t think Conor McGregor could make the weight on six day’s notice,” said White (h/t MMAFighting.com). “That’s a tough weight cut for him. Conor isn’t exactly the guy that I want to throw in as a late replacement fighter. He’s the guy that I want to make a fight with, have the right amount of time to promote the fight, have the fight in the right place, so I’m not interested in asking Conor to take the fight.”
So there it is. From the sounds of it, Conor McGregor was never even offered the short-notice fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov. Given the time difference, he might have even been sawing logs in Ireland when the news broke.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 4/2/2018.