A lot has changed since Tony Ferguson won the interim lightweight title on October 7th, 2017, but, if he and Conor McGregor both win tonight, could that fight finally materialize? As it stands right now, there’s more signs pointing to no than yes.
At UFC 216, approximately one year ago, Ferguson tapped out Kevin Lee to win the interim belt. At the time, McGregor wasn’t that long removed from his boxing match with Floyd Mayweather, and there was some talk the star could return to the Octagon in the coming months.
Well, as we all know now, McGregor elected to take some time off, while Ferguson was booked to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov in April. Unfortunately for the surging Ferguson, a freak injury punted him from the bout, Khabib went on to win the lightweight title, and he’ll face McGregor tonight at UFC 229. Ferguson, meanwhile, is going to battle former champ, Anthony Pettis.
Of course in theory, if Ferguson defeats Pettis, and McGregor retakes the 155 belt, then having the two face off makes a lot of sense from a meritocratic stand point. But, when it comes to McGregor, the biggest name in the game, we all know he has much more say than any other fighter, in terms of selecting his next bout. Would he look towards Ferguson?
Well, in a recent interview with Megan Olivi, McGregor said this, while discussing tonight’s fight with Khabib (quote via UFC.com):
“I was excited about competing against him (Nurmagomedov), more so than Tony,” said McGregor. “I know Tony had an interim title also, but I was a lot more excited about this contest with an unbeaten fighter. I’m not really impressed that much by his record. It’s a pretty looking record, but if you dig deep, it’s not that pretty. I think it’s very deceiving. Everyone seems to put him on a pedestal, and I don’t see it. He’s a bit timid when it comes to taking a shot; he does not like to take a smack. And if you don’t like to take a smack when you fight me, you’re in for a long, long night.”
Now, sure, just because McGregor said he was more “excited” to fight Nurmagomedov than Ferguson, doesn’t mean he wouldn’t fight Ferguson. But, the fact he made a note of this doesn’t really bode well, if you’re hoping to see Conor and Tony square off.
Especially when you consider that more recently, McGregor has mentioned the likes of Tyron Woodley, Georges St-Pierre and Nate Diaz vs. Dustin Poirier, while discussing what’s out there. McGregor did say he’d be willing to fight Pettis or Ferguson, but that was in the context of a replacement for UFC 229.
Further, since McGregor has talked about moving to 170 in the past, and that epic fights are all that interest him at this juncture, would a bout with Tony constitute the latter? If Ferguson goes out and finishes Pettis in emphatic style, he manages to get under McGregor’s skin, and fans really push for that bout, then maybe?