The Roads Toward the King of The Hill
“Defend or vacate motherf**er!”
These words came from the Tony Ferguson during his octagon interview at UFC 216. Tony Ferguson had just defeated Kevin Lee to become the Interim Lightweight Champion. Tony’s message was aimed towards the Lightweight Champion, Conor McGregor.
Conor McGregor’s return to the UFC has been highly anticipated by fans all around the UFC. Three fighters in the lightweight division have risen while Conor has stepped away from the UFC by attempting to conquer the boxing realm. Specifically, the 1st ranked Tony Ferguson, 2nd ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov, and 6th ranked Nate Diaz are the three options to challenge Conor McGregor. Ultimately there has been much controversy about who should be the next to challenge Conor. In fact, each fighter comes with his own positives and negatives adding to the debate. Most of the controversy is surrounded by the idea if the UFC will go around the rankings to make the money fight for Conor McGregor. Tony Ferguson should be next to challenge Conor McGregor to unify the UFC Lightweight division because he is the interim lightweight champion and has fulfilled all the requirements to receive a title shot.
Ultimately Tony Ferguson is destined to challenge the champ. As an illustration, in Ben Fowlkes’s article, he writes about how Tony Ferguson deserves a title shot because of his merits. In fact, Tony Ferguson is on a 10-fight win streak in the lightweight division. Not to mention he just won the Interim lightweight belt with a win over 7th ranked Kevin Lee. Writing for Tony, the author also states that Conor McGregor hasn’t defended his lightweight belt since receiving it back last year at the event UFC 205.
In short, I agree with this article the most due to the fact that Tony Ferguson has done everything he needs to do to get a title shot. In other words, it’s hard to deny Tony a title shot with all that he has accomplished such as defeating a previous belt holder, winning in phenomenal styles, going on a 10-fight win streak, and retaining the Interim Lightweight Championship belt. With that being said, many fans who would argue that Tony doesn’t deserve a title shot would agree that Tony Ferguson doesn’t bring the money that Conor McGregor wants compared to a Nate Diaz fight. Yet is it necessarily true that Tony will bring a drastic decrease to Conor McGregor’s bank account? I say not. For one Conor could allegedly receive a piece of UFC ownership which means he will receive more for fighting. To add on to this, a title fight will definitely bring in more revenue compared to a non-title fight. Tony Ferguson could attract the viewers eye and money. These two things are what the champion Conor McGregor thrives on.
Indeed, Conor McGregor floats to where the money is. At UFC 196, Nate Diaz shocked the world when he defeated Conor McGregor with a submission in the 2nd round. Although at UFC 202, Conor McGregor defeated Nate Diaz with a Majority Decision after 5 rounds. To put it bluntly, everyone is anticipating a trilogy fight between the two which makes Nate Diaz is the leading candidate for the money train. As an illustration, in Jeremy Botter’s article he mainly talks about how Nate Diaz is the next in line to fight Conor. Conor ‘cares’ about being payed and not his legacy. From a money stand point, Conor McGregor had allegedly earned over $100 million dollars in the boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather. He continued to talk about how a fight with Tony Ferguson would mean that Conor would receive payday of 1/10th of what he earned with Floyd. In result, Tony Ferguson would be jumped over by Nate Diaz to fight Conor.
I mostly disagree about what the author has to say. Promotors of a third fight between the two would certainly take issue with the argument that the fight not only would be at lightweight but it would also break the ranking system. For example, at both fights with Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor during UFC 196 and 202, they made both fighters weigh in as welterweights (170 pounds). As well the fight wasn’t for lightweight implications. For one, Nate Diaz hasn’t fought in the Lightweight division since December 19, 2015 when he fought Michael Johnson (9th ranked Lightweight fighter). With that being said, Nate is also ranked 6th in the lightweight division.
A fight between the two at lightweight would be irrational and unconventional. Conor needs to finally defend his lightweight belt against an opposing threat in the lightweight division, and Tony Ferguson is that threat. Therefore, these findings have important implications for the broader domain that if Nate Diaz gets a title shot against Conor McGregor, that means he skipped over the 1st ranked Lightweight Interim Champion Tony Ferguson and the other top 5 contenders. As well, doesn’t it seem irrational to think that Conor McGregor doesn’t care about his legacy? Why would he have fought for the belt if he didn’t care for his legacy? The point of him not caring about his legacy is unconventional. From all of this, I disagree with Nate Diaz getting the title shot.
Khabib Nurmagomedov is another option in a title shot with Conor McGregor. In Mike Bohn’s article, , he uses some quotes from Dana White, the President of the UFC. Dana says, “You know what Conor told me? He said, ‘I want Khabib in Russia,’” White told MMAjunkie on Wednesday at UFC headquarters. “Isn’t he (expletive) awesome? He’s like, ‘I want Khabib, in Russia.” (Bohn p.4). Later he also writes how The Russian has a 24–0 record. Initially, Khabib was going to fight Tony for the Interim Lightweight belt at UFC 209, but pulled out with a severe pain in the liver from dehydration from a weight cut. In addition, moving the UFC to Russia would be big. At this point I would like to raise some objections to this. For almost a year now, he has been pleading to fight Conor McGregor for the Lightweight belt. Khabib was offered to fight for the interim lightweight championship with Tony Ferguson, but pulled out.
I feel that a fight between Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov is not possible. First off, he could have fought Tony Ferguson at UFC 209. With a win over him, no one could have denied him a title shot against Conor. But because of his unprofessional weight cut, he could not contest. Tony has been professional and made weight for 209. From this Tony Ferguson’s slip in the drawing hat became a little bigger than Khabib’s for a title shot. If Khabib was given the opportunity to fight over Tony Ferguson, it would become illegitimate.
Tony Ferguson is the only fight that makes sense. Adding on to this, in a Matt Jones article, he uses some quotes from the President Dana white. After UFC 216 Dana told the media that the Tony Ferguson vs Conor McGregor fight is “the fight has to happen” and that “its the fight that makes sense”. He also added on to what he thought about the Nate Diaz vs Conor McGregor fight. Dana said “That’s internet bulls — t”. The author later talked about how Ferguson deserves the title shot because how he has put together such a win-streak with determination. I agree with what he has to say. Tony done all that’s required to receive a title a shot as well he is in better shape than Nate Diaz for it.
The man to challenge the champion should be Tony Ferguson. Ultimately, what is at stake here is the future of the Lightweight division. Many followers can agree that this division has spiraled out of control. With Tony Ferguson, many critics would say that he is not worthy due to the fact that he isn’t the ‘money fight’ or the most ‘wanted fight’. Yet we must realize that Interim Champions must challenge the champion. With that being said, I see a glimmer of organization at the end of the tunnel.