After he defeated Michael Johnson at UFC 205, Khabib Nurmagomedov said he wanted a title shot in his next fight or he would be fighting outside the UFC. He has softened his stance slightly, but is still calling for a shot at a belt, just not the one around current UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor‘s waist.
McGregor, who added the lightweight strap to his featherweight championship with a win over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, plans to take the next few months off. His girlfriend is pregnant, and McGregor wants to focus on the birth of his first child. UFC president Dana White recently stated that he doesn’t expect the Irishman to be back in the Octagon before May of 2017.
That would put two title belts in limbo. The UFC took the freeze off of the featherweight belt this past weekend when it announced that McGregor would relinquish the featherweight title to make room for others in the division. UFC officials named Jose Aldo, who had held the interim title, the new champion, while also announcing that Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis would be an interim featherweight title fight and the new UFC 206 headliner.
While McGregor remains as UFC lightweight champion, Nurmagomedov doesn’t believe the division’s title should remain on hold for the next several months, and called for an interim title fight with Tony Ferguson.
“I feel very bad about this because before this year I had two years rest because I have injury all the time. Now, I don’t want to be waiting for (McGregor),” Nurmagomedov told RT Sport. “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.”
Nurmagomedov’s is a strong position if there is going to be an interim title fight. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the UFC lightweight division and sports a 24-0 professional record. Meanwhile, Ferguson sits at No. 2 in the rankings with a 22-3 record.
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have twice been scheduled to fight in the past, but injuries derailed the fights.
“Last time, he (was) injured. He pull out, not me. Before, I have injury. Now, why not?” posed Nurmagomedov.
“I think UFC want to make this fight, and for me its perfect date, this is March. Tony Ferguson is tough guy, tough opponent, and (is on a nine-fight) win streak. I think this is real high-level lightweight fight. Not Conor versus me; I think this is real high-level fight.”
While the UFC came under scrutiny for the way it handled the featherweight championship situation, particularly for naming Aldo the outright champion, Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson is a fight that might make more sense to fans. With McGregor taking a sabbatical, will the UFC move to institute an interim lightweight champion?
(Video courtesy of RT Sport)