Currently, Khabib Nurmagomdeov reigns as the lightweight champion of the UFC - but do fans really recognize The Eagle as the 155-pound king?
The fact of the matter is, the UFC lightweight title hasn't been defended since November of 2016. At that, the defense was a losing effort. Eddie Alvarez dropped the strap to Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 205 on pay-per-view (PPV) after getting knocked out in the second round.
Since then, McGregor has not fought in the Octagon but instead ventured off into boxing where he lost a 10th round TKO to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Last month in Brooklyn, McGregor was stripped of the lightweight title when Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Al Iaquinta to win the new undisputed lightweight strap.
Originally, interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson was scheduled to defend his interim title against Nurmagomedov at the event. The winner of the fight would immediately be promoted to undisputed champion.
Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov is a fight fans have been clamoring for for several years. Unfortunately, injuries to both parties have prevented that from happening, and that's exactly what happened at UFC 223.
El Cucuy tore his ACL and was forced off the card. On just a few days notice UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway stepped in for a replacement, but was deemed unfit to compete the day before the event by the athletic commission.
Al Iaquinta would step in and challenge the Russian for the title, but proved unsuccessful after losing a unanimous decision.
While all three of these men; McGregor, Ferguson, and Nurmagomedov - are the dominant bunch at 155 pounds, none of them have ever defended the lightweight title.
Many fans live by the moniker "you're not the champion until you defend the title." Tony Ferguson seems to believe in this - but he also believes that he's still the true champion at 155 pounds.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Ferguson said he hasn't been officially told he has been stripped of his interim lightweight title - so as far as he's concerned he's the true champion of the weight class (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“The doctor told me recovery time is anywhere from three to six months with this kind of procedure, but I heal quick,” Ferguson told ESPN recently.
“Whenever Khabib’s b**ch ass comes back, that’s when I’ll be back. I’m thinking November.
”The UFC has indicated my title is gone and Khabib is the only champion at 155 pounds, but the UFC hasn’t mentioned anything official to my management.
"As far as I’m concerned, I’m still the true 155-pound champion. I never lost my belt.”
Ferguson claims he'd love to get a crack at Nurmagomedov next for the title, but he'll have to wait in line if Conor McGregor decides he's ready to return.
There's no doubt that McGregor will get the first shot at the Russian's title if he wants it, as they have personal issues to settle aside from fighting over a gold belt.
If the UFC grants McGregor the first shot at Nurmagomedov over Ferguson, El Cucuy says it'd be a harsh kick in the groin from the promotion:
“That’s a big middle finger to ‘T-Ferg’ right there - that’s a kick to the groin if they do that,” Ferguson said.
“At the end of the day, does the UFC really like its fighters? I’m one of their toughest fighters. Don’t kick me when I’m down.
”I missed out on pay-per-view points, my purse, a big payday; a lot of things behind the scenes. They have to either give me my title back or make sure I’m fighting under that same contract. I’ve earned that.”
What are your thoughts on Ferguson saying he wants first dibs on Khabib next? Do you think that McGregor will be the first to challenge for the Russian's title? And who are you picking in a potential fight between McGreger and Nurmagomedov? Let us know your thoughts on the matter in the comments section below!
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