The bad blood between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov continue to simmer as their April 7 date in New York’s Barclays Center nears.
El Cucuy has promised to ‘dance around’ Nurmagomedov, leave him bloody and finish him with liver shots. Nurmagomedov meanwhile, threatened not only to break Ferguson’s face but to break El Cucuy’s arm as well. Nurmagomedov’s manager even believes that Ferguson will never fight again after UFC 23.
But while all this talk of violence sounds cool, it may be the best action that we’ll ever get from both men against each other. Because while Ferguson vs Nurmagomedov ( or Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson if you want to put it that way ) could be one of the best lightweight bouts ever, it may never be an actual bout at all.
The Fourth Time
The possibility that this fight isn’t going to happen may be greater than Ferguson beating Nurmagomedov. As of February 3rd, Nurmagomedov is a -250 favorite at Betway. But if you take a look at history, this fight has been booked thrice before but has also been scrapped as many times for various reasons.
In 2015, Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were supposed to fight at the finale of TUF 22. But the Dagestani star was forced out of that bout with a rib injury. It was rescheduled for UFC on Fox 19 the following year but it was Ferguson’s turn to beg off after he suffered an injury himself. Then last year, Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson was booked as the co-main event of UFC 209. However, the fight was called off one day before the event after Nurmagomedov was hospitalized due to weight cutting issues.
Ferguson went on to win the interim UFC belt after submitting Kevin Lee via triangle choke at UFC 216 in October 2017. Nurmagomedov meanwhile, successfully recovered from the health scare by enlisting the services of known nutritionist Tyler Minton to help him with his weight issues. The pair’s first venture was a rousing success with a healthy Nurmagomedov putting on a one-sided beating against Edson Barboza at UFC 219 last December 30, 2017.
World Title Fight?
Khabib even felt so comfortable with his weight cut under Minton that he said in a pre fight interview that he believed that we won’t just make 155 easy but he could be able to go down further 10 pounds after UFC 219 and pursue a second belt ( champion vs champion ) at the featherweight division. But again, that may also be just wishful thinking.
When the official poster for UFC 223 came out, it described Ferguson vs Khabib as a ‘world title fight’. But the UFC has not officially stripped Conor McGregor of the 155 pound belt yet, despite Dana White’s proclamation that the Irishman cannot hold the weight class hostage for two years. The UFC may have a valid reason behind that.
The Notorious One made history at UFC 205 by becoming the first fighter in promotion history to hold two world title belts simultaneously. But after that momentous victory over Eddie Alvarez in November 2016, Conor McGregor has not fought inside the octagon again.
McGregor chose to put on boxing gloves and fight Floyd Mayweather Jr. last year. And after making an alleged $100M bounty from fighting Mayweather, McGregor has chosen to take life easy and is in no hurry to return to the UFC octagon. With its biggest cash cow opting to remain on the sidelines, UFC President Dana White booked the ‘world title fight’ between El Cucuy and the Eagle.
But given the history of Ferguson vs Khabib, there is reason enough to think that the fourth time isn’t going to happen either. Sure, the UFC booked it again. But what choice did they have? McGregor isn’t even sure if his next fight is going to be inside the MMA cage or inside a boxing ring. One way or another, the division had to move, with or without Conor, in order not to be dormant. And now that it has, the UFC will wait for Ferguson and Khabib to do their share before stripping the Irish superstar of his last UFC jewel.
After Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov make weight on April 6th, Dana White is probably going to take the stage and announce that the UFC is stripping Conor McGregor of the 155 pound belt. And then Ferguson vs Khabib will officially become a world title fight.