While Khabib Nurmagomedov is nearly half-way through his nine-month suspension, the UFC chose to go ahead with an interim title fight, announcing a bout between UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway and Dustin Poirer in Atlanta, slated for 13 April.
UFC President Dana White told ESPN.com that Tony Ferguson had been offered to fight Holloway for the interim belt, but he declined. Nurmagomedov has since taken to Instagram to comment on Ferguson’s decision:
“Tony, you had your chance, and you missed it, and that’s your fault only”, Nurmagomedov wrote, and went on: “You know that I’m disqualified and can’t fight, but it’s not fair to strip me of the title. … As a fighter you deserve a title fight, you are (a) great fighter and opponent, but now you have to fight or wait for my DQ to be over and fight”.
“But UFC doesn’t want it”, Khabib added in parenthesis.
A few days earlier, Ferguson tweeted that he had been offered a fight with Holloway, but expressed uncertainty over it “meeting our standards”. Meanwhile, Holloway in his turn mocked the said possibility in a bizarre tweet last week, referring to Ferguson as “the type of guy to copy my back tattoo then tell me I’ve just been blessed”.
Ferguson has won an interim bout before, in October 2017, with a submission win over Kevin Lee, but was later stripped of the interim belt after he injured his knee just ahead of an undisputed title fight with Khabib last April.
Khabib later took on US mixed martial artist Al laquinta to claim the champion title, which he later defended with a submission win over Conor McGregor at UFC 229, which rounded off with a post-bout brawl leading to his current suspension.
Although Ferguson recovered from a knee surgery precisely at that time, he hasn’t yet met Khabib in the ring, despite the bouts having been booked four times. Nurmagomedov has recalled and reviewed all of these at length in an Instagram post:
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I want to remind you guys, that before I become champion, I was close to the title fight 3 times and all 3 times I missed my opportunity. First was in July 2016 when I was offered to fight in Ramadan month and I turned it down, second was UFC 205 NYC when I was offered a title fight, bout agreement signed, but my title was given away, you know the story. Third time was UFC 209 where I was hospitalized and almost died. But after every single fail I were said: you missed your chance, earn your shot with one more victory. Tony you had your chance and you missed it, and that’s your fault only. You know that I’m disqualified and can’t fight, but it’s not fair to strip me off the title, I fought 3 times in 9 months. I won and defended my belt. As a fighter you deserve a title fight, you are great fighter and opponent, but now you have to fight or wait for my DQ to be over and fight(but UFC doesn’t want it). I don’t understand your offenses, if you fell down, you got to get up, not complain. #ufc #mma #ufclightweight