Last week during a radio appearance, Dana White confirmed that interim UFC Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov would go head-to-head at UFC 223 later this year in April.
The UFC President confirmed at UFC 220 over the weekend that El Cucuy and The Eagle have been booked for another fight at UFC 223 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on April 7. Although UFC has stated this fight will be for the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship they haven't stripped current champion Conor McGregor of the title.
This has caused a bit of confusion amongst the media and UFC fans, but the Russian lightweight believes the situation is actually pretty clear.
Khabib said during an interview with TSN, via Bloody Elbow: “(Ferguson is) still interim champion, but when we fight, it will count as real belt. This is what will happen.
“They stripped (Conor’s) belt at lightweight, they stripped his featherweight belt. (Me and Tony) are going to fight for the real belt and that’s it,” he said. “I don’t understand why media people keep talking like, ‘did you strip him or no?’. Of course UFC stripped him.”
Khabib suggested as well that he might not give McGregor a shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship if he beats Ferguson this April.
He said about Notorious: “Now, he has to deserve a title shot. My plan, beat Tony Ferguson and then UFC are going to try and put McGregor next in line? No, he has to deserve it. I’m going to tell him ‘hey, get in line.’”
When Ferguson and Khabib meet inside the Octagon in roughly two-and-a-half months time, this will be the fourth time in which these two have been booked for a fight after previous fights were booked for 2015, 2016, and 2017. Each fighter has withdrawn from the clash once due to injury (2015 - Khabib injured, 2016 - Tony injured), while the Russian failed to make a weight cut in 2017.
Both El Cucuy and The Eagle are currently ranked as number one and number two in the lightweight division respectively, so it makes sense for this fight to happen if Notorious is not going to be fighting anytime soon.
The Irishman could attempt to mess things up by announcing his intentions to defend the Lightweight title, but it sounds like UFC has already made his mind up and is moving forward with the Lightweight division without him. If McGregor wants another chance to have the Lightweight title as well, he's going to have to earn it if Khabib is champion.
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