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Tony Ferguson open to Conor McGregor or Dustin Poirier fights to earn shot against Khabib vs. Gaethje winner

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Tony Ferguson was down but he’s far from out.

The former interim lightweight champion hadn’t tasted defeat in eight years until he set foot in the octagon to do battle with Justin Gaethje in the UFC 249 main event. In the weeks leading up to that fight, Ferguson had been preparing for a long awaited showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov but the coronavirus pandemic eventually led to that matchup falling apart for the fifth time.

Ferguson ultimately accepted a short notice fight with Gaethje instead but then suffered a fifth-round TKO, which was the first time in his career he had been finished by strikes.

Afterwards, the 36-year-old lightweight decided to actually take a little bit of time off to recover rather than racing back to the gym to get the bad taste of defeat out of his mouth.

“I listened to my boxing coach and I took some time off,” Ferguson said when speaking to ESPN. “It was really good. I got to spend a lot of time with my family. I got to go to Big Bear and spend a lot of time with my boy, my pups, my wife, everybody and really think about what my future entitled and tried to put everything behind me.

“Because I really wasn’t happy with that fight. I enjoy getting hit but I can’t let that sh*t happen again.”

While offering no excuses for the outcome, Ferguson definitely wasn’t happy with his performance against Gaethje and despite taking home Fight of the Night honors, he wasn’t satisfied by what he witnessed when going back to watch it again.

“It was boring,” Ferguson said. “It was like fighting one of my own teammates. It was one of those extreme situations that shouldn’t have happened like how it went to down. It did how it did and you can’t change that, like I said, Justin was the better man that night.”

Following a brief vacation from the sport, Ferguson’s fire was reignited again and now he’s ready to get back to work while anticipating another fight before the end of the year.

“I’m just anxious for the future. I really am,” Ferguson said. “They know how hungry and eager I am in the UFC.”

In an ideal world, Ferguson would seek an immediate rematch with Gaethje or just face the winner of his upcoming fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov but he understands that’s probably not going to happen.

So the next best case scenario is Ferguson fighting on the same card as Nurmagomedov and Gaethje after they inked contracts to headline UFC 254 on Oct. 24.

When it comes to opponents, Ferguson isn’t calling anybody by name but two particular fights that were mentioned to him both appear to be appealing options.

“You want to give me Conor [McGregor], give me Conor,” Ferguson said. “You want to give me [Dustin] Poirier, we’ll make it happen and then we’ll fight and then we’ll fight the winner of the Gaethje and Khabib fight.”

Technically, McGregor retired from competition earlier this year but UFC president Dana White has cast doubts on the permanence of that particular decision. As for Poirier, he’s coming off a statement win over Dan Hooker in his most recent performance in June and a fight with Ferguson could be a slam dunk No. 1 contender’s fight in the division.

“They’re both decent fighters,” Ferguson said about McGregor and Poirier. “They’re both good. We’re all elite in the top five for a reason. As far as fights go, if Conor wants to fight, I’m down for that. I’d love to fight a southpaw. I do really well, I knocked out Aaron Riley’s jaw on accident. When it comes down to fighting standup, you’ve got to remember when I fought Edson Barboza. It’s a lot different.

“This mix and matching kind of stuff, that if it does happen again, I’m cool, man. I’m already used to it. It doesn’t matter. Opponent switches, COVID, anything else wants to pop up, let’s go, we’re used to it now.”

More than anything, Ferguson just wants to face the best of the best that the lightweight division has to offer. As long as it’s one of those fights being offered, “El Cucuy” is more than ready to sign on the dotted line.

“I would love to compete against Khabib, Poirier, McGregor,” Ferguson said. “Those are the three right there. Why? Talent-wise, that’s why.

“Not because of any other ways or means. Because of the talent and the athletic respect that I have for their talent that they have in this sport.”

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