Following his three-round destruction of Edson Barboza at UFC 219, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father recently said they were willing to take on former champion Eddie Alvarez if the UFC decided to book Conor McGregor vs. Tony Ferguson to unify the 155-pound belt.
However, his manager is singing an entirely different tune.
Ali Abdelaziz told MMA Fighting that they are not interested in fighting for Ferguson’s interim title, a ‘fake’ belt that no one wants:
“Khabib’s next fight, we’re not fighting for no damn interim belt,” Abdelaziz said. “We want the real belt, or we don’t want nothing. We appreciate everything the UFC has done for us, but it’s time for a real belt. Nobody is interested in fighting for a fake belt. Tony Ferguson has a fake belt. Nobody wants this.”
The UFC lightweight title picture is beyond a mess right now, with Dana White stating champion Conor McGregor must make his intentions known so they can book Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov for the interim title sometime around March with the winner taking on “The Notorious” later in the year.
But Abdelaziz’s insistence throws yet another wrench into the plans, which are haphazard at best while McGregor negotiates a potential promoter’s stake in his next fight and Ferguson recovers from elbow surgery. Adding to that mess is Nurmagomedov’s long track record of injuries and weight-cutting issues, making any fight involving him a dangerous prospect in a division that needs him – and McGregor – active to truly move on.
“The Eagle” set his sights on three bouts in 2018 – one in the spring, one around September after Ramadan is over, and a final fight in December. To do so, the UFC will have to get to work booking the dominant grappler soon, and that may not be easy with both McGregor and Ferguson out of action.
There’s little chance Khabib would leapfrog Ferguson and fight for the official belt, and it seems we’re perhaps several months away from McGregor actually defending his title if he ever does, so the logjam at lightweight may have just had a fresh load of logs thrown on top of it.
Welcome to 2018, fight fans.