When Khabib Nurmagomedov tapped Michael Johnson with a kimura on the undercard of UFC 205, he extended his record to a perfect 24-0. With this pristine record, it became even harder to deny that he should be the man to receive the next crack at the lightweight title, now owned by Conor McGregor.
Yet McGregor, as we know, is embarking on a hiatus from the sport, during which he’ll father his first child with girlfriend Dee Devlin. Given this, Nurmagomedov seems to have two choices: endure an indefinite wait for McGregor to return and hope he receives the shot when the Irishman finally does come back, or take another fight in the meantime.
While it seemed to be McGregor or bust for Nurmagomedov in the wake of UFC 205, he now seems to be leaning towards taking another fight – particularly one with fellow lightweight contender Tony Ferguson. Ferguson recently extended his win-streak to a fantastic nine with a decision win over former champion Rafael Dos Anjos, and is the only man who can rival Nurmagomedov’s claim at a fight with McGregor from a rankings standpoint. The two lightweights have been scheduled to no avail on two occasions in the past.
In a recent interview with RT Sport, Nurmagomedov explained that if he were to take a fight with Ferguson, it would have to be for the interim belt in March – not sooner.
“I FEEL VERY BAD ABOUT THIS BECAUSE BEFORE THIS YEAR I HAVE TWO YEARS REST BECAUSE I HAVE INJURED ALL THE TIME. NOW I DON’T WANT [TO BE] WAITING FOR THIS GUY. IF CONOR DON’T WANT FIGHT BEFORE MAY/JUNE, I WANT TO TAKE OTHER FIGHT. I WANT TO FIGHT FOR THE INTERIM BELT WITH TONY FERGUSON.”
“LAST TIME HE WAS INJURED. HE PULLED OUT, NOT ME. HE’S NOT COMING TO APRIL 16 TO THE FIGHT. BEFORE I HAVE BEEN INJURED AND NOW IT’S, WHY NOT? NOW, I THINK THE UFC WANTS TO MAKE THIS FIGHT. I FEEL THIS AND FOR ME ITS PERFECT DATE IS MARCH. NOT EARLY, ONLY MARCH.”
Nurmagomedov went on to explain his belief that Ferguson is actually a more difficult fight than McGregor.
“TONY FERGUSON IS TOUGH GUY, TOUGH OPPONENT. NINE-WIN STREAK. WHY NOT? I THINK THIS IS REAL HIGH LEVEL LIGHTWEIGHT FIGHT. NOT CONOR VERSUS ME I THINK THIS IS REAL HIGH LEVEL FIGHT.”
Do you agree that Ferguson is a tougher fight for Nurmagomedov than McGregor? Sound off, PENN Nation!