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Michael Chiesa lays out his fight demands for ‘after I beat Tony Ferguson’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

It’s been a big month for Michael Chiesa, who upset Beneil Dariush at UFC on FOX 19 in April, (nearly losing his bowels in the process) called the Venator card that went down in Italy (the country of his heritage), and got rebooked into a main event slot against Tony Ferguson at UFC Fight Night 91 in July (in the promotion’s maiden voyage to Sioux Falls, South Dakota).

Now a winner of three fights in a row and going against one the lightweight division’s top contenders, Chiesa is knocking on the door for a title shot. That’s why he wanted to fight Ferguson. So that he can position himself into an undeniable spot with a win.

And he’s already laying out his conditions for after he takes out "El Cucuy."

"Tell you what, not if but when I beat Tony, there are only three conditions I will comeback and compete," Chiesa said during a spot on The MMA Hour. "I will come back and compete if it’s for a title shot, a main event in Italy, or a main event in Spokane, Washington. But when I beat Tony, I’m going to do it in a way that it’s an exciting fight, back-and-forth, I’m going to get the finish. I beat the No. 3 guy in the world.

"So why is this not a No. 1 contender fight?"

Chiesa laid it out further by laying out the overall list of casualties that he and Ferguson have accrued over the years. But, he also conceded that the 155-pound division is a tough one to guarantee anything.

"It’s just hard to bill it," he said. "In the lightweight division there are so many fighters and so much fluctuation in the rankings that it all boils down to politics as to who gets the title shot. But I’m going to force their hand. I’m going to win this fight, say these are my three stipulations, and I’m not fighting until I get one of them.

"So, I’m not trying to be complicated. I’m not trying to be a dick, but at some point you’ve got to put your foot down."

Chiesa has raised some eyebrows of late with his rear-naked choke of Jim Miller in December (becoming on the second man to tap Miller) and then his rear-naked choke of Dariush, who had won five in a row beforehand. That happened in Tampa, at the same card that Ferguson was supposed to face Khabib Nurmagomedov before having to pull out with a lung issue.

Chiesa said that, in the UFC’s attempt to salvage a fight for Nurmagomedov -- and even though he was booked against Dariush -- his name came up as a possible replacement. 

"One thing a lot of people don’t know is [the UFC] called me to fight Khabib when Tony fell off," he said. "And there was a long debate for a couple of days, where we were like should we do this, should we not…do I take the chance, do I take the fight with Khabib? And I thought to myself, and same with Rick [Little] the rest of my team, you take the fight with Khabib, and you’re not even going to be the No. 1 contender if you win — you’re still going to have to fight some top three badass afterwards.

"So is the risk really worth it? Because I felt like I’m already going to fight Beneil, I’m going to win and I’m going to have to fight a top three guy anyway. What do I do? Do I fight Khabib? Or do I stick with the guy who I was originally supposed to fight? And obviously I made the right choice. Because if I fought Khabib and beat him they wouldn’t make me the No. 1 contender. They’d say, well you’ve got to fight Ferguson now."

Though Chiesa reiterated that he knows what he wants and that he knows how to get there (through Ferguson), it’s a tough draw. The 32-year old Ferguson has won seven fights in a row, including a second round submission of Edson Barboza back in December. During his win streak he has finished five of the seven opponents he’s faced.

How to stop Ferguson?

Though Chiesa didn’t want to give away too much of his plan, he did say that he’s been surveying the guys in his division, taking notes.

"I watch my division very closely," he said. "Even the guys that aren’t ranked, I’ve got a great grasp of what they’re good at, what they’re not good at, where they train, who their managers are — I mean, I pay really close attention to my division. And Tony is a guy who has amazing cardio — that’s his best attribute, No. 1, is that he always shows up in shape. Great shape. He’s willing to go for it. He’s not a guy to fight safe, which I love because I’m the same way. I don’t like fighting safe."

Chiesa said that he and "El Cucuy" have some style overlap, which will be in evidence on July 13 at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls.

"I like to get out there and go for it," he said. "He comes forward. He doesn’t take a backwards step. We have a lot of similarities. Versatile striker, he likes to switch stances and stuff, but I think his tendency to go for it could go against him. I just don’t think it’s in your best interest to go for Imanari rolls and stuff like that against a guy like me, because, as you’ve seen, you give me one opening to get behind you and take your back, it’s going to be a bad night for you.

"With that being said, I’m sure they’re already aware of that. Whether he continues to do the same thing or not, that’s great, it doesn’t matter to me. I got a plan for however this fight goes. But, I didn’t even get to go on full display for what I’ve have improved on in this last fight [with Dariush] given the circumstances. It’s kind of hard to showcase your skills when you spend the whole first round clinching your butt cheeks."

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