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Tony Ferguson out of UFC 223, Max Holloway to step in and face Khabib Nurmagomedov for lightweight title

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Tony Ferguson Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fight really might be cursed.

Ferguson is out of the lightweight title fight with Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 on April 7 in Brooklyn , sources told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani on Sunday afternoon.

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway will replace Ferguson in what would be a lightweight title fight against Nurmagomedov, Helwani reported. Ferguson suffered an injury a few days ago and had to withdraw.

Nurmagomedov and Ferguson had been scheduled to fight three times previously and none of those bouts came to fruition, either, for a multitude of reasons. This time was supposed to be for the undisputed lightweight title, with the expectation that current champion Conor McGregor would be stripped.

UFC president Dana White told ESPN that Ferguson tore his LCL and needs surgery.

“He actually tore it off the bone, he’s gonna need surgery on his knee,” White said.

White reiterated that Nurmagomedov vs. Holloway would be for the undisputed lightweight title.

In an Instagram post, Ferguson explained how he injured his knee in a freak “accident” on a studio set. Sources told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that Ferguson was on the Fox lot Friday in Los Angeles fulfilling UFC 223 media obligations when it happened.

#UFC223 #TonyFergusonMMA SnapJitsu™️ #SnapDownCity

A post shared by @TonyFergusonxt (@tonyfergusonxt) on

“As soon as these guys step in the ring and throw a punch, it’s on for the title,” White said. “Whoever wins, wins the title and we’ll see what happens with Conor over the next several months. I know he had expressed some interest in fighting in September.”

Ferguson (23-3) became the interim champion in the 155-pound division when he defeated Kevin Lee by third-round submission at UFC 216 last October.

Holloway (19-3), meanwhile, has held the featherweight belt since June 2017. He’ll try to become only the second fighter in UFC history to hold two belts in two different weight classes at the same time. McGregor was the other.

Nurmagomedov (25-0) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Edson Barboza at UFC 219 in December. The Dagestan native is one of the few high-level fighters in the upper reaches of a UFC division still undefeated.