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Tony Ferguson eyes Nate Diaz next: ‘I haven’t had a knockout in a long time’

A little more than a week after his interim title bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov fell apart, Tony Ferguson is moving on. By his own count, he has put on between “25 to 30 pounds” since he made weight for his UFC 209 fight, and — now having seen a match-up with Nurmagomedov fall through on three separate occasions — he’s contemplating new dance partners.

Nurmagomedov was forced out of his fight with Ferguson just 36 hours beforehand the event was to take place, ending up at a Las Vegas hospital to replenish fluids after a bad weight cut. In the meantime, Ferguson has been a target to other lightweights looking to jump in for a fight with Ferguson. Michael Chiesa (whom Ferguson was supposed to face last summer) has shown interest, as has Michael Johnson (who volunteered to fight him on short notice a little over a week ago) and Edson Barboza (who just knocked out Beneil Dariush in Fortaleza, Brazil).

So what’s the ideal situation for Ferguson? Namely to pick up the pieces.

“I’m a professional, so I’m going to try and move on from this,” Ferguson said during a visit to The MMA Hour on Monday. “Trying to offer Khabib a chance to come back at it and see what his position is, but I don’t think he’s doing too good right now. So I’m not sure who’s next man. Been kind of throwing it around the bush and I’m ready, bro. My body doesn’t know anything different than to fight right now. So that’s what I would like to do. I’d like to fight real soon. Especially for the belt.”

Ferguson did have one idea spring to mind, a fight that a lot of people have been warming in the aftermath of the botched Nurmagomedov fight.

“I’m just throwing a name out there, but I think Nate Diaz and myself could actually put on a good show,” he told Ariel Helwani. “I think his ranking is kind of bullshit too, but I don’t really see anybody else. I mean, Edson Barboza called me out, but it is what it is. Everything’s in the air right now. I want to fight for the title. I want a fair fight, I want to go in there and kick this dude’s ass no matter who’s signed to the dotted line, and fucking move on. And kick Conor’s ass. I don’t know what he’s up to, but lets just go.”

Ferguson said he was a “little disappointed” in Nurmagomedov for not making weight, and that there was no real excuse. If the UFC were to looking to put together Ferguson-Nurmagomedov a fourth time, “El Cucuy” said he would want assurances in place — security measures — to make sure he is taken care of. He reiterated that the UFC gave him far less than he expected for show money in Las Vegas.

Still, Ferguson insisted he wants to move on, and — with Nurmagomedov potentially out of action with his health situation and Ramadan coming up from May until June — a fight with Diaz might be the best thing for him.

“Just because he’s a decent striker, I mean, I haven’t had a knockout in a long time,” he said. “Not trying to call out my shot for a knockout, but I think my boxing’s a little bit better than his. It is what it is, I think my stand-up is a lot better, but this is not a boxing match, it’s MMA. And I’m just starting to mix it up with some takedowns and cool stuff.

“I’m just starting to learn the ankle lock game, which is crazy — props to 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and Eddie Bravo for helping me out with that. Dude doesn’t get too much props.”

Ferguson, who has won nine straight fights, said he was chomping at the bit to get in there and demonstrate his new-found skill set. Now it’s a matter of finding the fight that makes the most sense for him, which is easier said than done.

“For an opponent, let’s just say I want to fight Edson Barboza again, let’s just say something like that, what is that going to do for me?” he said. “Absolutely nothing. Michael Johnson, possibly. Possibly. But I’m not going that far down the rankings. The purpose is I worked my ass off. I need to do something about that belt. Lets get that belt and keep moving up these ranks.

Currently in the UFC’s official rankings, Nurmagomedov is ranked No. 1 and Ferguson No. 2 (which he said “has to change”). Rounding out the top five is Eddie Alvarez (#3), Rafael dos Anjos (#4) and Barboza (#5). Then it’s Johnson (#6), Chiesa (#7) and finally Diaz (#8).

When hearing the rankings read aloud to him, Ferguson pointed out that — of all those names — he either has history with them, or that they don’t make sense from one stand-point or another.

“Okay, what about Chiesa?” he said. “He called me out too, he backed out of that fight too that I took in South Dakota. I just don’t see that fight doing anything for me. Nate’s one of those dudes that I think honestly could challenge my talents right now. I mean, he’s a good fighter man. Black belt level jiu-jitsu, respect that. I’ll go as far as Eddie’s system goes and then my own system, I’m a black belt in my own system. This is something I’ve been doing for a long time. This is an Octagon, it’s not a mat.”

As for when he would welcome a fight with Diaz, who last competed against Conor McGregor at UFC 202 last August, Ferguson said he would do it whenever — even if it’s for the July pay-per-view that could use star power and a title fight.

“July’s fine, I like July. If we can do this sooner, that’d be dope,” he said. “But you name the place, you name the time, and I’ll be right there and I’ll knock the guy out.”

Asked what his message for Diaz was, Ferguson laughed.

“Let’s go man, I want to go toe-to-toe,” he said. “Think you’re good, think you’re bad, think, you say ‘don’t be scared homie,’ I’m standing right here. Live what you say.”

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