Tony Ferguson’s 2017 campaign began with a major disappointment when his interim lightweight title clash with Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209 was canceled a day before the fight.
The highly-anticipated bout was scrapped when Nurmagomedov was declared medically unfit to compete after a difficult weight cut. While there were more than a few fighters willing to take the Dagestan native’s place, Ferguson ultimately elected to sit on the sidelines along with his original opponent. “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner admitted that losing the opportunity to fight Nurmagomedov was a difficult pill to swallow.
“At first I was more worried about his health…but after I found out it was due to just being unprofessional then it started sinking in,” Ferguson said on UFC Tonight. “Then I started getting mad, hitting the bags. I started realizing, my body knows that there isn’t a fight, but it’s not gonna stop. The mental game is there too, it’s like alright you need to chill out. But the body is still ready to go and revved up. It’s kind of a hard one to take.”
Ferguson is still interested in facing Nurmagomedov somewhere down the road, but he needs to be confident that the showdown would actually happen.
“I think I would love to have the fight. Putting up with the whole entire camp again and going through all [that] put a salty taste in my mouth….It’s a fight that I want,” he said. “The fans want this fight. It’s something where I wouldn’t mind training again for it. There would have to be some assurances for it…”
In the meantime, the state of the 155-pound title remains in limbo as reigning champion Conor McGregor appears dead set on pursuing a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. If McGregor isn’t planning on defending his title, Ferguson has a suggestion for “The Notorious” one.
“It depends on where his heart is at. I want to fight somebody that wants to fight. I don’t want to fight somebody that’s forced to fight. I want to fight a top contender. I’m one of the best fighters out there as far as lightweight contention,’ Ferguson said. “I’ve been in my time, I’ve put in my numbers. This is where it’s at. If Conor wants to leave the belt, he wants to pursue some sort of victory in the boxing world, which I don’t think he is [going to get]. The dude’s got a puncher’s chance. But f—-ing vacate the belt right now and drop it. Leave it where it’s at and we’ll fight for the belt International Fight Week.”
One name in particular stands out to Ferguson, perhaps even more so than Nurmagomedov or McGregor.
“I know one person I would like to go toe-to-toe with who probably needs a lesson taught to is Nate Diaz. I would love to go toe-to-toe with him,” Ferguson said. “Anybody else that’s out there doesn’t really deserve a shot with me. Myself, the fans, everybody else would love to see the fight. Battle of California, baby.”
Diaz hasn’t competed since dropping a majority decision to McGregor in their rematch at UFC 202 this past August. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a clear timetable for the Stockton, Calif., to return to the Octagon.