UFC president Dana White was thought to have set up a de facto tournament after UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov retired, but now the entire UFC community is wondering what comes next for the winner of the main event battle between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler at UFC 262. White told the media earlier this week in Houston he currently has no plan to pit the newly crowned champion at 155 pounds, Oliveira or Chandler, against the winner of the upcoming trilogy capper between UFC superstar Conor McGregor and top-ranked contender Dustin Poirier.
“I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes and how all these fights play out,” White said.
When pressed on the matter, White continued to refuse to give any indication at all that the winner of UFC 262 would face the winner of UFC 264.
“We’ll see. I don’t really do that anymore. I don’t say ‘this is going to happen, or that is going to happen’. Let’s see how these fights play out, and we’ll go from there,” White said.
So McGregor might envision himself beating Poirier at UFC 264 and grabbing gold right after that against either Oliveira or Chandler, but that’s not necessarily on the way for him even if he wins his next fight.
The door is going to be wide open for potential fights in the UFC’s stacked 155-pound division following the crowning of its new champion at UFC 262.
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Would McGregor Get First Dibs?
As the UFC’s biggest superstar, it would seem reasonable to suggest McGregor’s status would play a huge role in determining what happens next in the division.
The Irishman is the slight betting favorite to defeat Poirier at UFC 264, and if he gets the victory it would seem likely he would get first crack at the new champ.
But that assumes McGregor still desires to chase gold above all other options. What happens if he guns for another trilogy capper against his longtime rival Nate Diaz at 170 pounds?
For a fight that is “always going to be there” as suggested numerous times by White and others in the MMA world, it sure has seemed hard to put together over the last five years.
McGregor and Diaz fought twice in 2016. They remain tied 1-1.
Moreover, McGregor has gotten distracted with boxing in the past. That could open the door to other potential bouts.
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What About Poirier?
Poirier winning UFC 264 would seem straightforward as well on the surface.
“The Diamond” already has wins over No. 2-ranked Justin Gaethje, McGregor and several other notable figures. A fight for gold against the winner of UFC 262: Oliveira vs. Chandler would seem like the right move if Poirier beats McGregor again on July 10.
But that assumes Poirier wants the title shot.
What if Poirier seeks another big-money showdown instead? After all, the popular American essentially just did that in selecting an immediate rematch with McGregor, a fighter he just defeated at UFC 257, over a shot at the vacant title.
So what if Poirier chooses Diaz? The two stars have long-desired to share the Octagon, so Poirier might again give preference to facing a superstar like Diaz over capturing a title.
The Elephant in the Room: aka ‘The Highlight’
Of course, there’s also that 155-pound elephant in the room.
Gaethje has gone unmentioned this week in Houston, but the plain truth of the matter is that “The Highlight” should probably be fighting for the vacant title. That he was skipped over by the UFC deserves an answer, and that he might be again is also worthy of discussion.
Gaethje remains ranked No. 2 in the UFC’s official lightweight rankings. He hasn’t fought since losing to Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 last year, and he’ll need to figure into the UFC’s mix going forward.
Rest of the Field Includes ‘El Cucuy’ and More
The winner of UFC 262’s co-main event showdown between longtime fan-favorite Tony Ferguson and rising star Beneil Dariush will also come into play. That would especially be true if “El Cucuy” wins.
After all, Ferguson won 12 straight fights in the UFC and never got the opportunity to fight for the undisputed lightweight championship. Ferguson has also never shared the Octagon with some of the biggest names in the division, most notably McGregor.
Regardless, the plan for the UFC’s stacked lightweight division seemed sort of evident heading into the upcoming battles between Oliveira and Chandler at UFC 262 and Poirier and McGregor at UFC 264.
But that’s apparently far from the case.
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