On April 7, in the main event of UFC 223, UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and undefeated contender Khabib Nurmagomedov will battle for the UFC lightweight title. The understanding is that Conor McGregor, who currently wears the UFC lightweight title, will be stripped somewhere in the immediate buildup to the UFC 223 event.
According to Tony Ferguson, however, he and Nurmagomedov will not be battling for the vacant lightweight title. Instead, he claims that this fight will serve as his first title defense. If this is true, the implication is that, once McGregor is stripped, Ferguson will promptly be promoted to undisputed champion, and Nurmagomedov will challenge him for this title.
Ferguson made this claim in a Tuesday Instagram post. See it below.
“Shweaty” TUF Welterweight Champ All Knockouts – Lightweight Champ Mostly Submissions- Fight Isn’t For The “Title” As Many May Think… #TeamElCucuy It’s Our 1st Title Defense. Get That Shit Right. Period. ~Champ 🏆😎🏆#PocoLoco #TonyFergusonMMA SnapJitsu™ #SnapDownCity My Mat. 🇺🇸🏆🇲🇽 Thanks Everyone For The Love & Hate B# 🎶🎶🎶 Sponsors Lets Work 👉Snapjitsu@gmail.com
“Fight Isn’t For The ‘Title’ As Many May Think…” Ferguson said in his post. “It’s Our 1st Title Defense. Get That Shit Right. Period.”
It’s hard to say if Ferguson is just being symbolic here, or if he’s dropping the news that the UFC will promote him to undisputed champion once Conor McGregor is stripped. Either way, the stakes for this lightweight title showdown couldn’t be higher.
Tony Ferguson will enter the bout on a 10-fight win-streak, highlighted by wins over Danny Castillo, Abel Trujillo, Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, Lando Vannata, Rafael dos Anjos and Kevin Lee. He’s 23-3 in sum.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, meanwhile, is an insane 25-0 overall. Highlights of his undefeated run included wins over Abel Trujillo, Pat Healey, Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson, and Edson Barboza.
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/14/2018.