Dustin Poirier has responded to Conor McGregor's title shot request by telling him: I'm the champion.
Poirier stopped his rival in the second round of their rematch last weekend to avenge his defeat by McGregor in 2014.
The Irishman has since called for a rubber match in May – and wants the lightweight belt to be on the line.
Khabib Nurmagomedov still holds the title despite announcing his retirement last October.
He has flirted with the idea of returning to the cage but now looks set to relinquish his prize.
That would pave the way for Poirier to fight for the vacant belt – and McGregor wants to be in the opposite corner.
Responding, Poirier tweeted: "I am the champ".
Before plotting his return, McGregor must first serve a six-month suspension due to the leg injury he suffered.
He will be allowed to return ahead of time if he is cleared by a doctor.
And the initial signs are encouraging after he completed a workout on his yacht yesterday as he considers his next move.
McGregor complained after his defeat that he paid the price for inactivity having fought just once since October 2018 – a 40-second outing against Donald Cerrone which McGregor dominated.
And former flyweight and bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo has advised McGregor to learn from his mistakes.
He said: " Conor McGregor. you cannot just continue to keep pressing people off the karate stance.
"It’s the same reason why I came away from it. Even though Daniel Cormier says I have the best karate stance in MMA, I had to lean away from it cuz it is a little too dangerous.
"So if I was to give him some advice, I'd tell him 'Man continue with the same stance but just become better at distance'.
"People now know that that front leg kick is there. That calf kick has made guys like Justin Gaethje successful.
"In my opinion he's the one that started it. Marlon Moraes hit me with it, which you learn from these things and you are able to adjust. This is how you evolve as a fighter."
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