With no Conor McGregor in the UFC, the main event of UFC 223 on April 7th between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov has been at the top of hardcore MMA fans must-see lists for months. Ferguson is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the game, while Nurmagomedov employs Jedi level grappling skills.
A fight between the two is enough to make any serious MMA fan’s mouth water as Ferguson had been on a ridiculous run and Nurmagomedov has gone undefeated in 25 professional bouts. True diehard observers have long hoped to see these two battle in the Octagon.
Add the fact this fight has actually been set to take place three different times, only to continuously fall apart. Originally a fight between the two was set for December 11, 2015 at the finale of The Ultimate Fighter but Nurmagomedov suffered a rib injury about six weeks out so Ferguson fought a replacement instead.
Then the two were scheduled to face each other at the UFC on FOX card on April 16, 2016 only for Ferguson to pull out due to a lung issue. In January of 2017 Dana White announced that they would headline UFC 209 on March 4th but the day before the fight Nurmagomedov was hospitalized for what was cited as weight management issues.
When White made the announcement in January that the main event for UFC 223 was Ferguson vs Nurmagomedov, fans everywhere immediately crossed their fingers in hopes of finally getting to see the two monsters clash.
The lead up to this fight has definitely created some heated exchanges between the two, taking the bout to a whole new level. This along with the fact that it’s arguably as good a matchup as can be made has helped feed the hype for the event. Now that the winner will likely advance to a bout with Conor McGregor doesn’t hurt interest either.
During the UFC 223 pre-fight media call, hardly anyone could get a word in as Ferguson and Nurmagomedov traded verbal trash. Here’s just a sample (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“You’re f*cking terrible,” Ferguson said. “Wait ‘til you test my conditioning, dog. I’m gonna take you in deep waters. I’m gonna leave you out there with no f*cking snorkel.”
“What happened with your conditioning when you fight Danny Castillo?” Nurmagomedov asked.
“I was worried about jiu-jitsu,” Ferguson replied. “I was probably like, what, a blue belt? Get out of here. I’d like to test that. What about you, huh? You blew your wad the last fight. You went three rounds your last fight. You couldn’t even finish Edson Barboza. I finished him in the second round. Bullsh*tting me.”
“I no need finishes,” Nurmagomedov said. “Why I need finishes? Why? I’m fine when I go cage, like, relax, take my time, talk with Dana about future, how we gonna smash your face. It’s okay, we already have plan with Dana. That’s why he talk about Khabib time all the time and you’re jealous. You’re jealous.”
It’s not uncommon for there to be trash talk between fighters during the build up to a fight but there’s genuine dislike between these two. Basically, with almost two and half years of anticipation due to the on again off again nature of this rivalry it’s become a can’t miss fight for the first Saturday in April.
At the end of the day, this is the biggest bout, by far, in each man’s career, and the winner could very well move into superstar status with a chance to face McGregor. Now let’s just keep them fingers crossed and hope it happens!
Chris covers MMA for The Grueling Truth and is the Lead Journalist & Editor-in-Chief of 3KingsBoxing.com. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @BoxingBoomhauer