Tony Ferguson called for a lightweight unification bout straight after his interim title capture over Kevin Lee at UFC 216 and even Dana White has claimed that “El Cucuy” will be next in line for Conor McGregor when he returns to the Octagon.
The debate among fans concerning McGregor’s next opponent has mainly been focused on Ferguson and Nate Diaz.
Although John Kavanagh and Owen Roddy claimed they would prefer to see the Diaz trilogy fight ahead of UFC 216, McGregor’s chief sparring partner, Artem Lobov, believes Ferguson earned his shot at the Dubliner with his third-round submission win over Lee.
“I think Tony is next,” Lobov told MMA Fighting.
“The only reason why I say that is it was unclear who was next for the title shot. There was Khabib, there was Tony and then Kevin Lee stood up.
“Then, when Kevin Lee was announced we weren’t sure that Tony would be ready. As soon as Tony got the belt, in my eyes he’s next because Tony obviously wants that belt.”
Lobov thinks that Khabib Nurmagomedov should fight the winner of Justin Gaethje versus Eddie Alvarez to stake his claim for the next shot at the belt, and that the Nate Diaz trilogy fight can be slotted in somewhere along the way.
“In my head, Conor defends the belt against Tony,” said Lobov, who fights Andre Fili at UFC Gdansk on Saturday. “In the mean time, Khabib can fight the winner of Alvarez and Gaethje. Whoever wins that can be next.
“While all that takes place, we can throw Diaz in the mix there somewhere.”
Lobov echoed Roddy’s sentiments on a matchup between McGregor and Ferguson. “The Russian Hammer” thinks that Ferguson has proven that he’s tough, but he still doesn’t think that he could take the shots Nate Diaz did in his first two meetings with McGregor.
“I feel that same as Roddy. We saw him being rocked by Vannata. It’s not that he’s not tough – he is – but he’s not as tough as Diaz. I don’t think he’s tough enough to last with Conor. He will get hit,” said Lobov.
“Even with the first Diaz fight, it was never a skill issue. It was just his toughness and his ability to absorb the shots and then comeback. Skill wise, I think Conor dominated him.
“I think the same thing would happen against Ferguson, except Ferguson isn’t tough enough.
“In fact, I don’t think there is anyone as tough as Diaz out there who can take those shots at any weight, really.
“I think it’s going to be a very quick night against Ferguson.”