Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee will fight for the UFC’s interim lightweight title at UFC 216 in Las Vegas on October 7th, Dana White has announced.
For a long time it had been assumed that if there was to be an interim title in current champion Conor McGregor’s absence then it would be between the division’s two leading contenders, Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
However, White is now saying that Nurmagomedov is “not ready” to fight, though he hasn’t elaborated further on why that is.
Within the past week the Russian ace had been urging Ferguson to fight him, stating on Twitter, “I’m waiting for you in New York … just take this fight, everybody waiting your decision.”
Ferguson then fired back that, “Your (manager) Informed @ufc U Are Not Well Enough To Fight Me At MSG, Turned Down The Fight On Your Behalf. Don’t Fool Your Fans.”
However, Nurmagomedov was still adamant that he would be willing to fight him in November at Madison Square Garden.
“You don’t need my manager, I’m the one who fights with you,” Nurmagomedov responded. “Take the fight or tell fans that you looking for easy way.”
It’s unclear at this stage if the UFC’s decision to make the interim title fight at UFC 216 a month earlier instead had anything to do with the fact that Nurmagomedov is now out of the picture for the time being.
Whatever the reason, it’s now Lee who gets the opportunity instead, and that in itself is odd given that he’s only ranked No.7 in the division at this moment in time.
Lee is riding a five-fight winning streak though, taking out the likes of Francisco Trinaldo and Michael Chiesa by submission so far in 2017, and has managed to make a name for himself with his outspoken antics.
This will be a significant step up in competition though, against a man in Ferguson who will be aiming to extend his hugely impressive winning streak to 10 fights.
Along the way, Ferguson has beaten beaten the likes of former champion Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza, Josh Thomson, , Gleison Tibau and Abel Trujillo, leaving him placed at No.2 on the lightweight rankings, one place behind Nurmagomedov.
At this stage Ferguson Vs Lee is the most high profile fight currently attached to the UFC 216 event, though White has stopped short of confirming that it will be the main event, with their recently having been talk that a heavyweight title fight between Stipe Miocic and Cain Velaquez could be in the works for the headline spot on the card.