A major UFC lightweight attraction has been signed, as Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov will battle for the interim UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 209, per a report from The LA Times.
The UFC had attempted to put the fight together for an extended period after current UFC Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor announced he'd be taking a leave of absence for the birth of his first child. The company ran into several roadblocks, including Ferguson demanding he be paid the same amount as Nurmagomedov.
After Ferguson's negotiating efforts, Nurmagomedov was offered an interim Lightweight title fight with Featherweight champion Jose Aldo. Khabib would decline the fight offer, saying that he only wanted to fight Ferguson, even offering up $200,000 to make it happen.
Nurmagomedov said the following:
Aldo says, referring to me, that I refused to fight with him. Tell him that I do not bully the little. I want a real battle, and only Tony can give it to me. At this stage of my career, even if I win Daniel Cormier, fans will say that I have to fight with Tony, and I agree with them. I have spent my career in the UFC asking for the strongest opponents, currently in this division we must decide who is stronger, me or Tony? Without exception, all the fans and experts want to see this fight and I want to give it to them. And you, Aldo, I advise you not to lose the respect of your fans, including me, do not lose your head, do not fall for the mind games of the UFC,
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov would have traded verbal jabs throughout the winter, before finally agreeing to fight.
Nurmagomedov (#1, 24-0) is undefeated in his 5 year UFC career at 8-0. He missed a two year span between April 2014 and April 2016 while dealing with various injuries. Nurmagomedov holds wins over Rafael dos Anjos and Michael Johnson.
Ferguson (#2, 22-3) has won nine consecutive fights, including bouts against Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, Lando Vannata and Josh Thomson.
UFC 209 takes place March 4 from the T-Mobile Arena from Las Vegas, Nevada with Tyron Woodley and Stephen Thompson headlining.