Photo by Damon Martin

Conor McGregor’s Coach Says He’s Still the Real Champion Regardless of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson

Conor McGregor's coach promises that his fighter is still the real lightweight champion in the UFC

Conor McGregor’s head coach isn’t too worried about the UFC possibly stripping his fighter of the lightweight title because no matter what happens in the upcoming bout between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, the world will know who is the real champion.

Like just about everybody else in the world, John Kavanagh is anxious to see what a fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov will look like after three cancellations in their previously scheduled bouts but nothing that happens will change McGregor’s status in the division.

McGregor became lightweight champion back in 2016 with a one sided route against former lightweight title holder Eddie Alvarez. Following that fight, McGregor spent the majority of 2017 focused on the birth of his son and then his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.

McGregor is now locked in a contract negotiation with the UFC to get a new deal done, which has delayed his return to the Octagon. Now Ferguson and Nurmagomedov will meet in a different lightweight title fight at UFC 223 with the possibility that McGregor might get his belt stripped away from him as a result.

“I’m hearing this at the same time as everyone else. I see there is a press conference that will happen tomorrow. I think Tony and Khabib, or else just Khabib, is being interviewed about the fight that Dana announced in April, which was news to me as well. Maybe they’re going to say it at that. Is it an interim title fight or is it a belt fight? I don’t know,” Kavanagh said during a Facebook live stream on Thursday.

“I think regardless of what way it’s sold, I think it’s still going to be known who the champion is. I know that’s going to upset a lot of people, but there you go, that’s my opinion on it. If it happens that those guys fight each other, and if it happens for the belt, they’re both going to think to themselves, ‘I’ve got to beat Conor to be really seen as the champion.”

As far as Kavanagh’s opinion on who wins, he’s leaning towards Nurmagomedov with his ground heavy style where he could keep Ferguson on the mat for the majority of the fight.

“Let’s assume both get through their training camps, they’re both healthy, it happens and it’s five rounds. I think Tony will have some moments in the first round or two where he gets close with some guillotines or triangles, but I think Khabib powers out of them and wears him down as he does,” Kavanagh said.

“I don’t think he really has the stopping power to finish him. His victory over [Edson] Barboza was very impressive and so one sided, but he didn’t really break him up. His face wasn’t bashed up and rearranged, it was more just the volume of shots and guard passing and so on. I think that would start to wear on Tony and he’d start to steal rounds with takedowns. Yeah, Khabib by unanimous decision.”

In theory that would set up a showdown between McGregor and Nurmagomedov later this year, but obviously nothing has been decided yet regarding the Irishman’s return to action.

The UFC has scheduled a press conference on Friday to introduce the fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov so it will be interesting to see what exactly will happen with McGregor’s lightweight title.

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Damon Martin is a veteran mixed martial arts journalist who has been covering the industry since 2003 with bylines on FOX Sports, CNN, Bleacher Report and numerous other outlets.