Former UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson was stripped of that belt just before UFC 223, where Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Al Iaquinta to become the undisputed UFC Lightweight Champion.
Michael Chiesa is a top ten ranked lightweight and could be challenging for the gold one day, but he still views Ferguson as the true UFC Lightweight Champion.
“In my eyes, Tony Ferguson’s the champion,” Chiesa told Submission Radio. “I mean, his win streak has a lot of prestigious names to it. You know, he beat Kevin Lee, he beat Rafael dos Anjos, he beat Edson Barboza, he’s got that long laundry list of guys in his win streak. So, I look at Tony as the champion. But, you know, I’m not taking anything away from Khabib. He’s got, what, 25-0, 26-0 record all together? So, his win streak’s insane, but I look at Tony as the champion. Now, if Tony and Khabib fight, who knows how that fight goes, but just in my eyes I think that Tony’s the champion.”
Chiesa has never stepped into the Octagon against either Ferguson or Nurmagomedov, but he was supposed to face Ferguson at UFC Fight Night 91 until an injury knocked Chiesa out of the encounter.
When it comes to future bouts against Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, it would seem like Chiesa would like to battle the former interim lightweight champion.
“I’m the type of guy where I feel like if you throw me in against the guy that’s gonna be my hardest match-up, I think that’s gonna bring out the best in me, and I know that the best of me can beat anybody on any given day to become the world champion. So, Tony is the fight that I like for myself,” says Chiesa.
UFC 226 takes place on Saturday, August 4 from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California with TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.