Tony Ferguson believes Khabib Nurmagomedov will be back. The reigning UFC lightweight champion shocked the MMA world at UFC 254, when he announced his retirement moments after defending his title against Justin Gaethje.
In a sport where retirements are rarely permanent, Khabib’s announcement had a sense of finality to it. As he placed his gloves in the centre of the Octagon, the 32-year-old attributed his retirement to the wishes of his mother, in the wake of the death of his father Abdulmanap in July.
An Unrealised Rivalry
Ferguson and Khabib have had one of the most famous rivalries in MMA, without ever facing off in the Octagon. The fight was scheduled five times between 2015-2020, only to be scuppered by injuries, hospitalisations and a global pandemic.
In an interview with Submission Radio (as transcribed by MMA Fighting), Ferguson spoke of his belief that his longtime rival’s retirement won’t stick, and his plan to welcome Khabib back to the Octagon.
“I completely called it out,” Ferguson said. “I called it out on my post. You guys can see that. I called he was gonna retire. I mean, Ali Abdelaziz (Khabib’s manager) did his job. He kept his client safe, kept him away from very dangerous opponents. I mean, that’s what an agent and a manger is supposed to do. Although, he is a piece of s***, but I have to say, he did the smart thing. I mean, he avoided me at all f***ing costs. I mean, the Russians, they avoided me at all fucking costs. That’s f***ing awesome. So, you know what, I did my job. They ran. F***in’ Dagestani ran with his tail between his legs. But you know what, he’s off in the sunset. I have to give him props. Go handle your family business, and I’ll see you when you get here. Back. Because you’re gonna miss it like Conor (McGregor). So, you know what, I’m calling it out again, he’s going to be back. So, I’ll be f***ing ready.”
On His Own Championship Merits
The retirement of Nurmagomedov has thrown the lightweight title picture wide open, with all members of the top five holding a claim to a shot at the newly vacated title. However, Ferguson believes that he and Dustin Poirier should be the next world title bout.
“I kind of called out everybody on one post, and Dustin already f***in’ said ‘Let’s do it’. So, he wants to fight for the f***in’ title for me, so he’s already the kind of dude to skip s*** and kind of whatever he’s gotta do,” Ferguson said. “So, the way I called it was, you gotta have myself and you gotta have Dustin Poirier fight for the title. I mean, Gaethje f***ing lost. I’ve been sitting here and I’ve been doing my s*** and making sure I’m keeping cool, calm and collected. Being real, give me the fucking title shot. Give me my chance. You guys want to see me fight, I really want to fight. I have a belt, I have a fight-of-the-year award, I have the Ultimate Fighter trophy, I got a couple of championship rings, I got medals, I got a bunch of awards and all American certificates, and certificates of merit for helping people out.”
Conor McGregor vs Dustin Poirier For The Title?
The main roadblock to Ferguson’s plan is that Poirier is closing in on a fight with Irish superstar Conor McGregor, slated for early 2020. Given that ‘The Diamond’ is ranked at number two, and ‘The Notorious’ at number four, there is every chance that the UFC will make the bout for the vacant lightweight title.
Ferguson however, despite having been unable to come to financial terms for a proposed Poirier fight at UFC 254, believes that McGregor’s inactivity means that he is undeserving of a title opportunity.
“He just deserves a chance to fight, that’s what he deserves,” Ferguson said. “He just deserves a chance to fight. F*** him and fighting for the title. He needs to fight. He needs to fight somebody like, I don’t know, top 15. Get his ass back on there. He don’t belong in the top five. Get the f*** out of here.”
“I Have To Keep On My Path”
While McGregor may have done little at lightweight in recent years to warrant a title shot, the problem for Ferguson is that he too is coming off a loss. The California native lost his most recent fight by TKO to Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 back in May. However, he remains unwavering in his belief that he should be next in line, should Khabib return to re-claim his belt.
“I’m ready for a belt,” Ferguson said. “That’s why I said I’m gonna throw a bit more media out there. I haven’t done it because I haven’t had a reason before. Even because I didn’t want to scare Khabib away. But even without f***in’ fighting that bitch I made him retire. So, like I said, props to you, ride off into the sunset with your f***ing hat. When you come back, I’ll put my f***in’ baseball hat against your hat and we’ll have a nice cultured exchange.
“So, like I said, he can ride off into the sunset, he can do his thing, but I’m not gonna change because somebody else is gone. I have to keep on my path. Props to him for completing his mission for his pops and everything like that, but my family would want me to keep continuing on in my dream and all my stuff and making sure I keep my word against other opponents.”
Do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov will return to finally fight Tony Ferguson?