Why Conor McGregor still holds the cards even though Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway are the ones going to war

UFC 223 is just around the corner but, as usual, McGregor is the one dominating the headlines

James Edwards
Wednesday 04 April 2018 12:35 BST
Conor McGregor still holds all of the cards
Conor McGregor still holds all of the cards (Getty)

It's UFC 223 fight week and as usual there's been no shortage of drama before the fighters step inside of the Octagon.

Interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson was expected to meet undefeated 25-0 Russian fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event this Saturday, but he unfortunately suffered a serious knee injury that forced him to pull out of the bout less than a week before fight night.

Fortunately the UFC managed to secure a perfect replacement in the form of their featherweight champion, Max Holloway. The Hawaiian has been recovering from an ankle injury that ruled him out of his UFC 222 title defence against Frankie Edgar last month, but now back in training, he felt comfortable enough to answer the call on just six days’ notice and is set to take one of the most feared fighters in the world.

Understandably, the UFC jumped at the chance of Holloway replacing Ferguson, with the stage now set for a new UFC lightweight champion to be crowned.

But where does this leave the current UFC lightweight champion, Conor McGregor?

It's been widely documented for months now that McGregor will be stripped of his title “when the first punch is thrown” in the main event on Saturday night according to UFC President Dana White.

McGregor still holds all of the cards (Getty)

This will put to an end the Irishman's 17-month reign as the UFC's lightweight champion and it's been an underwhelming reign, to say the least. McGregor won the title back at UFC 205 in November 2016 when he put on a near flawless display to knock out Eddie Alvarez in Madison Square Garden.

Whilst no one can deny that he was a worthy winner that evening, there's certainly scope to question whether he's truly been the best fighter at 155-pounds fighting in the UFC given that was his one and only fight in that division.

The likes of Ferguson, and Nurmagomedov to an extent, have been knocking on the door of a title shot for over a year, but with McGregor sitting on the sidelines welcoming his first child to the world and fighting Floyd Mayweather in a boxing ring, he's not proven he can beat either of the two men considered to be the best fighters in the division.

Khabib is the most feared fighter in the division (Getty Images)

On Saturday night McGregor will lose his title, but arguably the inclusion of Holloway into the mix now plays into the hands of the Irishman.

McGregor and Holloway fought back in August 2013 in Boston and it was the Irishman who rode out a clear winner via unanimous decision. After the fight, it came to light that both McGregor and Holloway had suffered injuries before and during the fight and the Irishman spent ten months on the sidelines with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left leg.

Since that time, Holloway has put together a 12-fight win streak and a rematch between the two has been widely mooted.

Holloway is riding an impressive win streak (Getty)

Add into the mix the demand for McGregor to fight Nurmagomedov, and now we have a situation where whoever wins on Saturday night at UFC 223 will immediately be linked with a fight with McGregor.

It's incredible to think, but a man who hasn't fought in nearly a year and a half still holds all the cards. McGregor is expected to be on the ground in Brooklyn this weekend supporting his teammate Artem Lobov who fights on the prelims and no bookmakers will be taking odds on him stealing the limelight.

Hate it all you want, but McGregor is still the money draw and come the end of UFC 223 on Saturday night, it's him we will be talking about regardless of who has the UFC lightweight title strapped around their waist.

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