Tony Ferguson has a serious history of near-misses with recently-crowned Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. The two have been scheduled to fight four times and all four times, one or the other has been forced to withdraw. Each man has pulled out of the scheduled bout twice, with several of those unceremonious exits occurring the week of the event. Yet despite all of the times the Nurmagomedov fight has fallen through, Ferguson remains undeterred in his desire to make it happen.
“Obviously [Nurmagomedov is] the one I prepared for the most,” Ferguson told TSN in response to whether he’d prefer to fight Nurmagomedov or McGregor next. “I mean, obviously if the money is right and Conor wants to fight, we’ll make it happen and obviously we’ll talk.”
The two lightweights were most recently booked to fight for the interim lightweight belt at UFC 223 in April, but a freak injury during a publicity event forced Ferguson out of the fight just days before the event. “El Cucuy” was replaced by Al Iaquinta; “Ragin” Al ultimately lost to Nurmagomedov via unanimous decision in a five-round, non-title affair.
Ferguson has yet to be cleared to fight by doctors, but is optimistic about returning to training next month, with the hope of fighting again before 2018 ends.
“Once I start impact [training], then I can start jumping, start doing all these different things,” he said. “Actually, I’m going to take up gymnastics. [I’ve done] a lot of different things for upper body. I did a lot of stuff: jiu-jitsu, a lot of my lower body; my lower clinch is a lot better. Just making sure there’s no holes in my game.”
As far as McGregor goes, Ferguson doesn’t believe the Irishman should even be discussed when it comes to lightweight title fights. “The Notorious” was stripped of the lightweight strap after failing to defend it after nearly two years of taking the belt from Eddie Alvarez back in 2016. While McGregor did go ten rounds of boxing in a losing effort to Floyd Mayweather Jr. back in August, he hasn’t fought in MMA since the Alvarez fight at UFC 205.
“McGregor, in my opinion, is not in the mix,” Ferguson said. “It’s Khabib and me. It’s ‘El Cucuy’ vs. ‘The Eagle.’”
While Ferguson is dismissive of McGregor’s place in the current title picture, he does not dismiss the man or the athlete so easily.
“I would like to see him fight again,” Ferguson said. “Not because of what the tabloids and everybody says are going on, but because he’s an athlete, straight up. I’ve seen him, I’ve met him, and I’ve talked to him. A lot of these fighters are out there, it’s just a front. I’m not gonna expose his cover, but look, man, do your s***, handle it, and get back on the f****** mat.”
McGregor is currently sorting out the legal issues stemming from his bus attack the same week Ferguson was forced out of UFC 223. UFC President Dana White says he doesn’t expect any McGregor fight announcements until the case is adjudicated in Brooklyn.