The UFC will soon have a new lightweight champion as the defending undefeated titleholder Khabib Nurmagomedov continues serving his nine-month suspension.
ESPN's Brett Okamoto reported Friday that UFC President Dana White told ESPN the UFC has tapped featherweight champion Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier to headline UFC 236 on April 13. Okamoto elaborated:
"The UFC has opted to create an interim 155-pound title in [Nurmagomedov]'s absence. According to sources, the UFC also discussed a bout between Holloway and former interim champion Tony Ferguson, but ultimately landed on the Holloway-Poirier matchup."
Nurmagomedov's suspension stems from a brawl after he defeated Conor McGregor at UFC 229 on Oct. 6.
If Nurmagomedov agreed to participate in an anti-bullying PSA for the state of Nevada, the Nevada State Athletic Commission would have reduced his suspension from nine months to six, making him eligible for UFC 236.
Holloway (20-3) and Poirier (24-5) will step into the Octagon on April 13 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.
Poirier expressed his frustration "with the lack of clarity on the division" to Okamoto. Because of the UFC's delay in deciding how to proceed at lightweight amid the Nurmagomedov backlash, Poirier had booked a flight home to Louisiana because the UFC "wasn't making fights."
Okamoto adds White told him Tony Ferguson was originally offered the lightweight title fight against Holloway but declined. Poirier is now seven weeks away from a title fight instead of on his way home.
Holloway's UFC debut came against Poirier in 2012 at UFC 143. Poirier defeated Holloway by submission at just 3:23 into the first round. Much has changed since then, though, as Holloway is currently on a 13-fight winning streak and holds nine wins by knockout.