LAS VEGAS — A fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson seemed to be the logical next step for the lightweight division following Conor McGregor’s title-winning victory at UFC 205. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson are unquestionably the two top contenders at 155 pounds, and the bout appeared to be the simplest way to decide McGregor’s next opponent. But that no longer is the case.
UFC President Dana White said on Wednesday that the match-up was now off the table due to the UFC’s inability to come to terms with Ferguson financially.
“We were trying to make that fight. Tony said he will not do that fight unless he makes the same exact money that Khabib makes,” White said. “Khabib has a different deal, so that ain’t happening. So count that one out.”
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have negotiated publicly for the fight on social media over recent weeks, with Ferguson stating on Twitter that he wanted the bout but would only accept it if he wasn’t paid “peanuts.” White said on Wednesday that the fight was initially planned as an interim lightweight title bout, but that Ferguson would be required to compete on the same contract he signed with the UFC “not long ago.”
“There’s a thing where, these guys, I honor every contract no matter what it is,” White said. “I get into some sh*tty deals too. You’ve got a guy who’s making tons of money, but he was a champion and that was the deal I cut. I cut that deal and I signed it, and I’ve got to live my with deal, you know what I mean? And if you ever see some of these older guys, whether it be Dan Henderson, whose numbers piss everybody off for some reason — all the fighters are pissed off about Dan Henderson.
“Dan Henderson’s been in this sport for 100 f*cking years. And the guy has a couple fights left, so should I cut him and cut his contract in half? It might be the last deal the guy ever has, and it was the last deal he ever had. This is one of those businesses where you don’t look at Dan Henderson and go, ‘the guy was a f*cking pioneer, the guy was an animal, would fight anybody, anywhere, anytime. Good for him. It’s good to see Dan Henderson make some money.’ No, what I get from these guys is, ‘did you see what f*cking Dan Henderson made?’
“This is the sh*t that I get with these guys. I’m like, listen, if you can stick around as long as Dan Henderson has and fight the guys that Dan Henderson has, then maybe you’ll be making Dan Henderson money too. But when you sign a deal, you honor your deal.”
Ferguson is without a doubt the lightweight division’s hottest fighter. The 32-year-old has won nine consecutive fights, the most ever for a UFC fighter without receiving a title shot. His run includes victories over Edson Barboza, John Thomson, Gleison Tibau and Lando Vannata, and was most recently capped off with a lopsided trouncing of former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos in November.
But White reiterated that Ferguson signed a deal, and the UFC expects him to fulfill it.
“Ride the thing out and become a free agent, but honor your deal,” White said. “I have to honor all of my deals. Imagine if I didn’t honor a deal? You guys would be f*cking all over me, man. Right? ‘Oh my God, he didn’t honor that deal with this guy.’ And as far as these guys that they look and they start – I hate when guys start counting other people’s money.
“Nobody feels happy for anybody. Everybody counts everybody else’s money and wants to rip up a deal after we make a deal. That’s not the way a deal works.”
When asked if Nurmagomedov-Ferguson was now considered to be “off the table,” White stated that it was.
White also confirmed recent reports that the UFC offered its reigning featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, as a replacement to fight Nurmagomedov in an interim lightweight title bout.
Nurmagomedov last week stated on social media that he turned down the Aldo fight because he wanted “a real battle, and only Tony can give it to me.” But regardless, White remained open to the idea of Nurmagomedov vs. Aldo for the interim lightweight strap.
“[Aldo] asked for Khabib, because Khabib’s looked at as the guy in that weight division,” White said. “He wanted to fight him. Khabib’s dad didn’t want him to fight. Khabib’s dad wants him to rest. … I like that fight. Khabib and Jose Aldo would be fun. I’m in.”