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Interim UFC lightweight champion Tony Ferguson is on the sidelines, at least for the near term, following surgery.

Ferguson had been lobbying hard for a unification bout with UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor. Although company president Dana White had been targeting UFC 219 on Dec. 30 for that bout, negotiations to get McGregor back in the Octagon have not gone as smoothly as he had anticipated. 

While undefeated lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov is returning to the Octagon, Ferguson hasn’t been overly interested in trying to make that fight after several past attempts have failed to get them in the cage together. Nurmagomedov will instead face Edson Barboza in the UFC 219 co-main event.

According to sources close to the situation, McGregor isn’t likely to return to the Octagon before March of 2018. In the meantime, Ferguson has opted for elbow surgery.

Ferguson’s wife, Cristina, on Thursday posted a photo of Tony, noting, “In good spirits even after elbow surgery. Praying for a speedy recovery.”

The timing of Ferguson’s surgery, if he does make a “speedy recover,” could coincide with a McGregor return. If the Irishman’s negotiations continue to go South, Ferguson might have to consider a bout against the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Barboza.

Tony Ferguson Elbow Surgery

(Photo courtesy of Christina Ferguson)

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