Former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) two-division champion Conor McGregor had the opportunity to fight Tony Ferguson in the UFC 249 pay-per-view (PPV) main event last month in Jacksonville, Florida, but turned it down because “Notorious” is not a “replacement fighter.”
That’s according to UFC President Dana White.
Instead, top lightweight contender Justin Gaethje stepped in to face “El Cucuy” after reigning 155-pound kingpin Khabib Nurmagomedov got stranded in Russia. The 22-2 “Highlight” went on to capture a lopsided technical knockout victory.
And a future title shot.
“He wants to fight Gaethje,” White told ESPN about McGregor. “Gaethje just won to get the fight with Khabib. He just beat Tony Ferguson. Conor had the opportunity to slide into that spot if Khabib or Tony fell out. He came back and said ‘I’m not a replacement fighter, I’m not going to do it.’ He would be in that position now if he took the fight. He didn’t, Gaethje did so Gaethje gets it.”
McGregor returned to action at UFC 246 last January, smashing longtime “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone in a welterweight headliner. It appeared “Notorious” was on the verge of returning to an active schedule; however, coronavirus made matchmaking a bit more difficult.
“Conor McGregor is frustrated right now because, I mean look what’s going on,” White said. “Look at what we’re pulling off. We’re literally just going to Yas Island right now to pull off these fights because the hardest thing to do right now is to get people into the country from other parts of the world. This is just a matter of Conor being frustrated I think in that he can’t get what he wants right now. It’s just not possible.”
There’s an outside chance McGregor could move on to fight the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje, who are expected to collide at UFC 253 this September at a city and venue to be named. But that would require “Notorious” to come out of retirement for a third time.