With UFC president Dana White all but confirming that Conor McGregor will defend his title against Tony Ferguson in his next bout, undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov is looking to spoil “El Cucuy’s” party.
Ferguson earned his shot at McGregor by defeating Kevin Lee at UFC 216 to win the interim lightweight title. An interim title typically locks the winner of said title into a unification bout with the champion when he is ready to fight, which is currently McGregor.
White said during a podcast on Sunday that McGregor’s likely next fight would be in Las Vegas against Ferguson, presumably on Dec. 30 at UFC 219. Nurmagomedov doesn’t think that’s the fight to make. He, of course, feels he should be somewhere in the mix.
Nurmagomedov is 24-0 and is currently ranked No. 2 in the lightweight division behind Ferguson. He wants to throw a wrench in the works and finally fight Ferguson after several failed attempts by the two to get into the Octagon.
“I hope UFC gives me a championship fight. End of the year, I want to take everything back; attention, belts. I want to take everything. End of the year, I want to fix everything,” he said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “And we’ll see what happens. But first of all, I think UFC has to make the fight, Conor versus Nate Diaz 3, and after, me and Tony.
“Because, my opinion, I think Tony Ferguson is the real champion. That’s why. I don’t think, if I fight versus Tony Ferguson, this is an interim belt. Officially, yes. But people want to see me versus Tony Ferguson. I think this is a much better fight, for everything. If I beat Tony Ferguson and take the interim championship belt… Conor’s the official champion, but he’s not the people’s champion.”
Nurmagomedov has somewhat of a point, as McGregor hasn’t fought mixed martial arts in nearly a year, when he won the lightweight title. He was also the featherweight champion and never defended the title in that weight class.
Of course, it’s not like Nurmagomedov can crow too loudly. After all, he has had his own troubles. He has been slated to face Ferguson on at least three prior occasions, most recently missing out at UFC 209 when he fell ill due to a botched weight cut. And that wasn’t the first time that Nurmagomedov struggled with making weight.
That coupled with several injuries means Nurmagomedov has fought sparingly since 2013. In fact, he has only fought three times in the past four years.
“I understand a lot of fans, they treat me like ‘hey, you have to fight,’ but I agree with this. It’s why I try to come back. It’s why I go into hospital, have surgeries,” he said. “I agree with fans; I have to fight. I have to make weight. I have to stay professional sometimes. I agree with this.
“But when I fight, I all the time smash my opponents. All the time, when I fight. Now I have one goal, fight end of the year in one dream fight. This is fight against Tony Ferguson. This is what I want.”
It may be what Nurmagomedov wants, but it appears unlikely to happen. Ever since Ferguson defeated Lee, White has been steadfast in his belief that Ferguson should be next for McGregor. He has consistently denied that Diaz is even a consideration.
So for now, Nurmagomedov may have to adhere what his critics are saying. He may have to come back and take another fight against the likes of Edson Barboza or the winner of Justin Gaethje and Eddie Alvarez, proving that he can make weight and remain healthy before he gets a crack at the belt.