Believe it or not, Khabib Nurmagomedov is somewhat sympathetic to Tony Ferguson. Yes, Ferguson has put Nurmagomedov in a tough spot, having to face a new opponent on six days’ notice. But an earnest Nurmagomedov told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour that he can relate to Ferguson’s plight.
“I understand him,” Nurmagomedov said. “Because I pull out. I have so many injures, ACL, MCL, I broke my hand, I broke my ribs. I have surgery on my back.”
Ferguson withdrew from his UFC 223 lightweight title fight with Nurmagomedov on Sunday due to a torn LCL. It was a freak accident — something that happened when he was on a studio lot fulfilling UFC media obligations. Max Holloway, the UFC’s featherweight champion, will now step in and face Nurmagomedov for the lightweight belt Saturday in Brooklyn.
When news of Ferguson’s injury broke, UFC president Dana White told ESPN in no uncertain terms that he would “never” book a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson again.
The bout seems cursed. It was put together three previous times and still has not happened. At UFC 209 last year, Nurmagomedov was hospitalized on weigh-in day and had to pull out of the fight with Ferguson. Nurmagomedov said he “almost died.”
While he understands White’s point of view, Nurmagomedov said he doesn’t agree. He still is interested in fighting Ferguson in the future and doesn’t believe fate will not allow the contest to happen.
“I really want to smash his face,” Nurmagomedov said. “I still want this fight.”
Nurmagomedov will now face Holloway for the lightweight title this weekend. But he can’t help but keep Ferguson out of his mind. This is the opponent he’s been preparing to face for so long.
“Emotionally, I feel like I’m still focused on him,” Nurmagomedov said. “Little bit I still focus on him emotionally. Al the time, I’m training [for him] all this couple of months.
“It’s hard. When you never fight, when you never compete on this level, I think you cannot understand this.”
In time, Nurmagomedov believes he’ll have to turn his full focus toward Ferguson again. He agrees that Ferguson is an elite lightweight, just like he is. It’s only inevitable that they could be on a collision course in the future.
“Sometimes we have plan, but God have different plan,” Nurmagomedov said. “It’s crazy. Maybe we’re gonna finally fight maybe the fifth time. Nobody knows. It’s crazy situation. I think fans now don’t believe the fight. Dana said he’ll never do fight. But what happens if I keep winning, he keep winning? We have to fight.”