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UFC 216's extended preview gives origin story on Lee-Ferguson beef, ignores UFC 215 shuffle

The way Kevin Lee sees it, destiny placed him opposite Tony Ferguson.

“Me and Tony were bound to fight, whether it was going to be headlining at T-Mobile Arena for a world championship, or if it was going to be in my backyard,” Lee said in an extended preview for UFC 216.

Of course, destiny got a bump from Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC). The undefeated Dagestani fighter was ruled out of a fourth potential booking with heated rival Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC), paving the way for Lee’s (16-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) shot at the UFC interim lightweight title on Oct. 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

However the pay-per-view headliner and title fight arrived, it’s a pivotal moment for Lee as he tries to reshape the 155-pound division with an upset win over Ferguson, the more well-established threat and two-time challenger for the stand-in strap to Conor McGregor’s undisputed belt.

“‘El Coo-Coo’ going night-night,'” Lee joked of Ferguson’s nickname, “El Cucuy,” before adding in Spanish, “Oct. 7 is the day of the dead.”

Ferguson isn’t driven by the same fervor in his second chance at the interim belt. Although he sees a tough fighter in Lee, he doesn’t see a challenge above his abilities. He’s more concerned that his opponent shows up.

When Nurmagomedov was forced to withdraw from an interim title bout just one week prior to UFC 209, scratching a third booking, Ferguson worried about the financial implications of a fight cancellation.

So in between all the usual proclamations of dominance that would be on display in the PPV headliner, Ferguson included a directive to Lee: “Make weight. Show up.”

Thankfully for Ferguson, Lee is not known to struggle at the scale. That worry gets reserved for UFC 216’s co-headliner, a flyweight rebooking between longtime champ Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) and challenger Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC).

The UFC was left in the lurch when Borg came down with a viral illness and was forced to withdraw from UFC 215 earlier this month. It was a head-slapping moment considering Johnson turned down a fight with ex-bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw in favor of Borg, touching off a highly publicized spat with the promotion.

Johnson, too, wondered whether he’d get paid. Thankfully, the promotion rewrote his contract and immediately rebooked him for UFC 216, setting up a second chance for “Mighty” to earn his 11th title defense and break the record long held by former middleweight champ Anderson Silva.

Curiously, the extended preview for UFC 216 makes no mention of the saga that brought Johnson and Borg together for the Oct. 7 event. Borg is recast as the upstart challenger, ever eager to prove he’s no flyover on Johnson’s trip to the record books. Johnson is a man on a mission to make history. It seems everyone would rather forget it happened.

“This is definitely uncharted territory for any champion out there, and I’m glad I can be the first person to make that walk, and hopefully, I can be successful,” Johnson said.

Given the rocky roads they’ve navigated in the past year, it’s an accomplishment just to make that walk without interference.

For more on UFC 216, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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