Years from now, UFC fans are still going to be talking about one of the greatest lightweight matchups that never happened. That matchup would be the matchup between former UFC champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), and former interim champion, Tony Ferguson (25-5).
For years, Ferguson and Khabib were linked to each other. They were looked at as the two best lightweights in the UFC, but their paths never crossed inside the octagon despite the promotion trying multiple times to book the fight.
The UFC booked Nurmagomedov – Ferguson five total times over the last few years. Every time that the fight was booked it fell through. There was weight cutting issues, injuries, and then a global pandemic to top it all off.
They were last scheduled to meet at UFC 249. However, when the pandemic shut travel down, Ferguson took on Justin Gaethje for the interim title. Gaethje defeated Ferguson and fought Nurmagomedov on Fight Island in October.
After Khabib defeated Gaethje at UFC 254, he announced his retirement in the cage. Last month, the retirement was made official and he relinquished his lightweight title. That lightweight title is up for grabs next month at UFC 262.
That same night, Tony Ferguson is scheduled to take on Beneil Dariush. Ferguson is looking to snap a two-fight losing streak. However, even with that going on, Ferguson is still focused on Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Would Khabib come back to the UFC?
Ferguson appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA show today where he talked about his desire to face the former UFC lightweight champion.
“I’m getting closer to Khabib and that’s the only fight that his pops wanted for him and that’s the only fight that they agreed to still. But he’s going to watch, man. They’re gonna try to get as much film on me as they possibly can. Quit being a bitch. Quit running and sign on the dotted line, Khabib”
Perhaps if Ferguson can reel off several wins in a row, the former UFC champion would come back. Khabib’s teammate Daniel Cormier said last month that if someone were to ever defeat Islam Makhachev that Khabib would potentially consider coming back.
Makhachev is another training partner of Khabib’s and a lifelong friend. If Ferguson wins his next matchup, perhaps the UFC pairs him up with Makhachev. Who knows, maybe Ferguson – Khabib isn’t dead. It could just be on life support.