‘El Cucuy’ was not having the Nurmagomedov pity party.
Earlier this week, fans were treated to a slightly left-field lightweight interim title bout announcement for UFC 216, featuring Tony Ferguson and ninth ranked Kevin Lee.
While it carries its own intrigue, MMA fans must have been left scratching their heads wondering what happened Khabib Nurmagomedov?
The undefeated Dagestani fighter was forced to pull out of his planned interim title bout with Ferguson back in March, due to complications with his weight cut.
The 24-0 Sambo wrestling specialist feels he is the most deserving candidate for a title shot at 155lbs, but is something of a poisoned chalice. Nurmagomedov is severely hampered by his record of pulling out of fights, due to injury or illness.
As a result, the UFC have passed on Khabib once more and handed the latest interim title shot to motor-mouth Detroit native, Kevin Lee instead.
It seems Khabib and his team were upset by the UFC’s decision and took to social media to voice their displeasure. His manager, Ali Abdelaziz posted the following message on Instagram.
View this post on Instagram
I'm so blessed to be part of my brother @khabib_nurmagomedov journey. Every other fighter would complain whine and cry. We wanted to fight November or December with @tonyfergusonxt but the ufc needed a main event for October. They have a business to run and we do as well. Tony jumped on it he could have waited for November. I'm not saying Kevin Lee is an easier matchup I believe he's a great fighter but Tony knows his chances with Khabib are zero to none. Everyone says I'm just a manager & I shouldn't be talking but everyone I work with we train, sweat and bleed together. Especially Khabib who's a personal friend close to my children and family… that being said F*^k tony Ferguson. #Repost @khabib_nurmagomedov (@get_repost) ・・・ Если кто то думает, что это вся ситуация на меня как то повлияет, то они ошибаются. Я никогда ничего не получал легко, и даже не рассчитывал на лёгкую дорогу. В любом случае так значит должно было быть. Альхамдулиллах. Двигаемся дальше. If someone thinks, that whole situation gonna affect me somehow, he's wrong. I never get anything in my life easy and don't even expect easy way. It is what it is. Alhamdulillah, we moving forward.
It didn’t take Ferguson long to pick up on the slight. He fired back at Khabib and Abdelaziz on Twitter.
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) August 18, 2017
As is often the case in these social media back and forth exchanges, it’s hard to know who to believe. Neither fighter wants to lose face or be seen to be ducking the other.
A mere fantasy?
Should Ferguson overcome Lee and, in some turn of events, the lightweight champion Conor McGregor is sidelined, the UFC may to tempted to pursue the Ferguson v Khabib fight once more.
Stylistically, it is a fascinating fight between two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the organisation.
It could even be the best match up in the UFC, given the level of both men. Having watched it fall through on so many previous occasions, perhaps Sean Shelby sees it as a mere fantasy.
A dream match-up for the purists that just can’t come to fruition. Chances are, it’s not the last we’ll hear on this situation, regardless.
In the meantime, Ferguson will have to turn his focus back to ‘The MoTown Phenom’ Kevin Lee.
Noel Ryan, Pundit Arena