Khabib Nurmagomedov just took out his twelfth UFC opponent, moving his overall MMA record to a staggering 28-0. When someone takes out a guy like Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 with such apparent ease, where do you turn for the next challenge?
The answer, according to most educated MMA fans, is Tony Ferguson. A man with the wrestling chops to survive Khabib’s ground game. A man with an unorthodox striking game dynamic enough to endanger the champ when things are on the feet. It’s a fight the UFC has tried to put together four times already, and if things line up, Khabib vs. Ferguson will be next.
“Tony Ferguson is next line for the [lightweight title], if he accepts the fight.” UFC president Dana White said at the UFC 242 post-fight press conference. “We’ll see how this thing plays out, when Khabib will fight again, and if Tony wants to fight.”
That’s great! But wait ... ‘if’ Tony accepts the fight? ‘If’ Tony wants to fight? What the hell? Further on, White made a Ferguson fight seem less likely by bringing Conor McGregor into the mix.
“Tony Ferguson gets the next shot,” White said when asked about McGregor’s demand for a rematch in Moscow. “And obviously, if for whatever reason Tony can’t take the fight or doesn’t want the fight at that time, then we would figure out what’s next. But yeah, Conor would make a lot of sense. Conor McGregor wants that fight really badly, and I’m sure the fans would want to see it so ... we’ll see how this whole thing plays out.”
That’s bad news for Ferguson fans. It sounds like the UFC is laying down the groundwork to pass Ferguson up should he not accept whatever offer or terms the promotion lays on the table for the honor of fighting Khabib Nurmagomedov. The UFC is in a constant battle to keep its fighter costs down and roster in line. Challengers that push a little too hard for a bigger piece of the pie are regularly slapped down. Henry Cejudo literally had to accept a pay cut to rematch Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title. That’s just how the UFC operates.
So when Dana White says Tony Ferguson is next if he accepts the fight, that should worry you because it tells you just how committed he is to making the fight happen. And if Conor McGregor is Plan B, I don’t have to tell you how tempted the UFC will be to jump down that route at the slightest opportunity.