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Khabib Nurmagomedov prefers title fight against ‘real champion’ Tony Ferguson (not Conor McGregor) at UFC 219

MMA: UFC 205-Nurmagomedov vs Johnson Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a while since Khabib Nurmagomedov had any time in the mixed marital arts (MMA) spotlight, as “The Eagle” hasn’t competed since Nov. 2016, submitting Michael Johnson at UFC 205 to collect consecutive win No. 24. That’s because after weight-cutting issues bounced him from his scheduled interim Lightweight title fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 earlier this year, Nurmagomedov underwent medical procedures to correct some lingering health issues.

So now that he’s back on a healthy track, “The Eagle” is eying a return to action at UFC 219 on Dec. 30, 2017.

“The last six months I just tried to fix my health. I had surgery to come back to training 100 percent,” Nurmagomedov said on The MMA Hour. “Now I am healthy, training and I talk to UFC. I think it’s about an 80 percent chance I am fighting at the end of the year at UFC 219.

“Now I am healthy, I fixed everything, my knee is fixed — everything,” he continued I hope at end of the year UFC gives me the fight so I can come back. We have 12 weeks before UFC 219 and I hope UFC give me championship fight at end of the year. I want to take everything back — attention, belt ... everything.”

Putting his matchmaker hat on, Nurmagomedov says UFC’s best move is to stage a trilogy fight between current Lightweight champion Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz to milk it it for all it’s worth, while giving him a title fight against interim 155-pound kingpin, Tony Ferguson.

“First of all, I think UFC needs to make fight Conor vs. Nate Diaz 3 and then after [that] me an Tony,” he said. “I think this is a very interesting fight. Conor vs Diaz is a money fight for UFC, and the real fight is me vs. Tony. I think this is much better.”

So why challenge Ferguson instead of the official champion?

“In my opinion, I think Tony Ferguson is the real champion,” Nurmagomedov explained. “I don’t think if I fight Tony Ferguson this is for the interim belt ... it’s the real belt. People want to see me and Tony Ferguson. I think this is a much better fight for me to take everything back. If I beat Tony and take interim belt I think Conor is official champion, but not the peoples champion.”

That’s one way to look at it, though it’s not like the promotion hasn’t tried to make this fight happen on several occasions. Unfortunately for Nurmagomedov, UFC is currently leaning toward booking a title unification match between McGregor and Ferguson next, perhaps leaving the Dagestani without a dance partner this year.

Unless, of course, UFC books Diaz vs. Nurmagomedov to settle their own beef that once saw them scrap it out in the lobby of a casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Furthermore, it was brought to Khabib’s attention that Edson Barboza was offered a fight with him at UFC 219, something “The Eagle” revealed was news to him. That said, Nurmagomedov wouldn’t be opposed to facing Barboza, but only if UFC goes ahead and books McGregor vs Ferguson.

Your move, UFC.

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