At Wednesday’s media day for this weekend’s UFC 267 event in Abu Dhabi, Makhachev revealed that when his originally scheduled opponent Rafael dos Anjos was forced to withdraw due to an injury he was offered two replacement options: Dan Hooker and Ferguson.
Makhachev, the No. 6 lightweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings, fights No. 9 Hooker on Saturday and he explained why the fight with Ferguson didn’t happen.
“They gave me two names, Tony Ferguson or Dan Hooker,” Makhachev said. “They say Tony Ferguson don’t answer, that’s why, Hooker is ready, I just say let’s go. It doesn’t matter.”
This past July, Makhachev called for a fight with Ferguson following a fourth-round submission victory over Thiago Moises. Ferguson is a longtime rival of Makhachev’s close friend and teammate Khabib Nurmagomedov, and while Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were never able to make an in-cage meeting happen, Makhachev could theoretically serve as a Nurmagomedov proxy if he and Ferguson ever fight.
However, with Ferguson having lost his past three fights, it doesn’t sound like Makhachev is interested in revisiting that matchup.
“I think Tony is finished now,” Makhachev said. “He’s lost three [in a row], that’s why I think it’s not a good idea to fight with him.”
Makhachev appears to be on the fast track to a shot at the title that Nurmagomedov won and successfully defended three times. He is 20-1 as a pro and 9-1 in the UFC. His eight-fight win streak is second-longest in the lightweight division behind only current champion Charles Oliveira (9).
Whether he was set to fight dos Anjos, Ferguson, Hooker, or anyone else, Makhachev knows he has to deliver in a big way on Saturday to place himself in the middle of the lightweight title conversation.
“I know I have to finish Dan Hooker because I finished my last [two] opponents,” Makhachev said. “I try to finish all my opponents, but I have to show people, show the UFC how [high my level is] because very soon I have to fight for the title. That’s why I’m gonna try to finish him everywhere.”