Morning Report: Planning Fall Return, Tony Ferguson Believes He’s ‘still The True 155 Pound Champion’

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Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov were supposed to fight at UFC 223 for the right to be called the undisputed UFC lightweight champion. Unfortunately, Ferguson injured his knee shortly before the event and had to have surgery so Nurmagomedov ended up fighting Al Iaquinta for the title instead, cruising to an easy victory. Nurmagomedov has indicated he would like to defend his title sometime in November or December, and when he does, Ferguson says he will be ready and waiting.

“The doctor told me recovery time is anywhere from three to six months with this kind of procedure, but I heal quick,” Ferguson told ESPN recently. “Whenever Khabib’s b**ch ass comes back, that’s when I’ll be back. I’m thinking November.

”The UFC has indicated my title is gone and Khabib is the only champion at 155 pounds, but the UFC hasn’t mentioned anything official to my management. As far as I’m concerned, I’m still the true 155-pound champion. I never lost my belt.”

Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been circling each other for years, with four separate fights falling through. At one point they were booked for a title fight against each other but Nurmagomedov pulled out the day before with a failed weight cut. Instead, Ferguson was rebooked against Kevin Lee for an interim title shot that he won.

However, despite the fact that Ferguson was previously a title holder for the UFC, he isn’t first in line for Nurmagomedov. That honor would fall to former lightweight champion Conor McGregor, who the UFC stripped of the title when Nurmagomedov beat Iaquinta. If Nurmagomedov fights McGregor this fall, that leaves Ferguson in the lurch and looking for another opponent which he says would be a real “kick to the groin” from the UFC since he was previously set to make more money as a champion.

“That’s a big middle finger to ‘T-Ferg’ right there - that’s a kick to the groin if they do that,” Ferguson said. “At the end of the day, does the UFC really like its fighters? I’m one of their toughest fighters. Don’t kick me when I’m down.

”I missed out on pay-per-view points, my purse, a big payday; a lot of things behind the scenes. They have to either give me my title back or make sure I’m fighting under that same contract. I’ve earned that.”

Ferguson was injured during a UFC promotional appearance and stripped of his title through no fault of his own. He is currently riding a 10-fight win streak in the UFC’s lightweight division, the longest such streak for any fighter who is not a champion. Ferguson believes these facts mean he deserves to be held up as champion, regardless of the marketing opportunities having Nurmagomedov as champion would present or the allure of a Nurmagomedov-McGregor fight. At the end of the day, Ferguson says, the UFC should have stripped McGregor and made him champion, and Nurmagomedov should have his old interim belt.

“I thought Al Iaquinta did a great job at UFC 223, but Khabib is going to say he won the Super Bowl after he faced the third string?” he said. “No way, dude. So many people hold him up on a high horse, but I see his flaws. I wasn’t impressed with anything he did.

”I think the UFC is going to do what they want to do, like any other time. But it’s disrespectful to me to strip my title. I should still be the interim champion. In fact, I should be the champion and Khabib should be the interim champion.”


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Legend. Chuck Liddell tells Jon Jones he could ‘learn from a true legend’.

Bet. UFC issues statement on the SCOTUS decision striking down ban on sports betting.

Healthy. Mackenzie Dern weighed 139.5 lbs. days before UFC 224, ‘wasn’t able to stand up.’


The MMA After Hour.

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Morning Report: Planning fall return, Tony Ferguson believes he’s ‘still the true 155-pound champion’
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