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UFC Interim Champions Robert Whittaker And Tony Ferguson Deserve Their Title Shots

A push for a super fight between the newly crowned UFC Middleweight Champion Georges St-Pierre (GSP) and UFC Lightweight Champion “The Notorious” Conor McGregor is alive and growing by the day. But before a fight between the two champions takes place, the two need to defend their titles in their respected divisions, as there are two interim champions waiting for a shot to unify the titles.

Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 21-2 UFC) is one of the biggest names in MMA history. When the former UFC Welterweight Champion vacated his belt and stepped away from the sport in November of 2013 for personal reasons, there was a void in the UFC. Clearly something was missing. Sure there were other big name fighters but none were as huge as St-Pierre. Then, not even a year later, Conor McGregor’s career caught fire and the void St-Pierre left started to go away.

From the time St-Pierre left to the time he came back, McGregor would win seven of his eight fights. Six of those seven wins would come by KO/TKO. The Irishman won two championships in two divisions, Lightweight and featherweight. McGregor was the first to hold two belts in two divisions at the same time in UFC history. This was truly an incredible feat. There is no doubt Conor McGregor is the biggest name in MMA right now. But one of the biggest names in MMA history is back and now a lot of talking heads along with fans are asking for a fight between the two.

This cannot happen. Not yet at least.

The UFC has two interim champions in the same divisions as St-Pierre and McGregor. Known as “Bobby Knuckles” in some circles, Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) is the UFC Interim Middleweight Champion and Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) is the UFC Interim Lightweight Champion. A fight between GSP and McGregor would not only be unfair to those two but it wouldn’t make any sense for anything other than pay-per-view buys. What would be the point of making interim champions if they won’t get a shot at the championship before anyone else? Quite frankly, there wouldn’t be a point.

This would show where the UFC’s minds are. If they go with the St-Pierre versus McGregor super fight, then they really are a big corporation going the way of the money. But if they make the two fights between the champions and interim champions, they will show that the rankings and interim titles have value.

Robert Whittaker won the UFC Interim Middleweight Championship in July of this year by beating Yoel Romero in what was the Fight of the Night at UFC 213. Whittaker is on an eight-fight win streak dating back to the summer of 2014. In those eight wins, four came by KO/TKO. The South Auckland, New Zealand native is only 26 years young and is just one fight and one win away from reaching the pinnacle of the sport, the title of being called a “UFC Champion.” While he was injured, Whittaker was passed over for the title fight when the UFC made the Michael Bisping and St-Pierre title fight, this cannot happen again.

Interim champion Tony Ferguson is also waiting for his shot at a title. Ferguson beat Kevin Lee at UFC 216 by triangle choke where he would become the UFC’s Interim Lightweight Champion. Since coming into the UFC in 2011, Ferguson has won The Ultimate Fighter 13 tournament along with winning 9 of 14 fights by submission, knockout or technical knockout while losing only once – back in 2012 to Michael Johnson. Ferguson is on an impressive win-streak in one of the UFC’s toughest divisions. It is only fair to give the guy a shot at McGregor and the title.

Whether or not the UFC makes the fights between St-Pierre and Whittaker and McGregor and Ferguson is still in question. But the way the promotion is going as of late is any indication, we may be in store for another money fight.

A St-Pierre/McGregor fight would bring enormous amounts of pay-per-view buys as both are proven superstars and that the fans are willing to drop their hard earned money to watch them fight. If the UFC were to make this fight, there is no question it would be one of the biggest in the organization’s history. The fact that St-Pierre is back is big in i self but if McGregor returned after not fighting in the octagon in over a year, business would be huge.

Just the idea of a St-Pierre vs. McGregor fight gets the combat sports fans juices flowing but the fight doesn’t need to happen right now. The UFC needs to make these interim championships meaningful and the only way to do so is to have the interim champions fight the division champions. In this case, Robert Whittaker needs to take on Georges St-Pierre for the Middleweight title and Tony Ferguson needs to fight Conor McGregor for the Lightweight title. While making these fights, the UFC can let the potential fight between St-Pierre and McGregor marinate while setting up a potential super fight in mid-to-late 2018 (perhaps for international fight week in July). But first, fights between “GSP” and “Bobby Knuckles” and “The Notorious” and “El Cucuy” are what need happen for the sake of the divisions and the rankings!

 

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