Former Ultimate Fighting Championship interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson still considers himself the king of the weight class, despite the fact the UFC officially crowned Khabib Nurmagomedov as the undisputed champion with his victory over late replacement Al Iaquinta last month.
Ferguson was scheduled to fight Nurmagomedov for the belt in April at UFC 223, but had to withdraw from the fight just days away from the event after suffering a knee injury while promoting the bout. The knee injury suffered by “El Cucuy” required surgery.
The “TUF” Season 13 winner still sees himself as the champion, which is why he’s targeting a showdown with the official champion in Nurmagomedov once he’s been cleared by the doctors to compete again.
“The doctor told me recovery time is anywhere from three to six months with this kind of procedure, but I heal quick. Whenever Khabib’s bi*ch ass comes back, that’s when I’ll be back. I’m thinking November,” Ferguson said when talking to ESPN.
“The UFC has indicated my title is gone and Khabib is the only champion at 155 pounds, but the UFC hasn’t mentioned anything official to my management. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still the true 155-pound champion. I never lost my belt.”
The decision to strip Ferguson of the interim belt is a blow financially as his next fight would be as a contender rather than the (interim) champion, which would have given him significant financial perks. Ferguson doesn’t believe he should be penalized for getting injured for doing something that was actually intended to help the UFC promote the event.
“That’s a big middle finger to ‘T-Ferg’ right there -- that’s a kick to the groin if they do that,” Ferguson said. “At the end of the day, does the UFC really like its fighters? I’m one of their toughest fighters. Don’t kick me when I’m down.
“I missed out on pay-per-view points, my purse, a big payday; a lot of things behind the scenes. They have to either give me my title back or make sure I’m fighting under that same contract. I’ve earned that.”
While Ferguson believes he deserves to be next in line for a title shot, he may already have been pushed down the pecking order with the UFC rumored to be matching up Nurmagomedov with Conor McGregor.
McGregor was stripped of his lightweight title last month after failing to defend it since winning the belt with his victory over Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.
Nurmagomedov and McGregor have a lot of bad blood and when McGregor attacked the bus last month it was an apparent attempt to intimidate Nurmagomedov -- who was on the bus -- after he allegedly slapped McGregor’s SBG Ireland teammate Artem Lobov in the hotel lobby days before the attack. The incident was aired all over the world and the UFC will no doubt want to use that footage to promote a potential record breaking pay-per-view fight between the pair, pending McGregor’s court hearing next month where he will face a number of charges relating to the attack.
Ferguson is hoping the UFC will do right by him when he’s finally ready to return to action later this year.
“I think the UFC is going to do what they want to do, like any other time. But it’s disrespectful to me to strip my title,” Ferguson said. “I should still be the interim champion. In fact, I should be the champion and Khabib should be the interim champion.”