On April 7, 2018, UFC 223, being held at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York, will be headlined by UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson and undefeated contender Khabib Nurmagomedov. UFC President Dana White confirmed the UFC’s intentions on radio show Toucher and Rich on Wednesday morning.
However, fans who are not holding their breath for this bout to come to fruition can be forgiven. This is the fourth time a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has been booked by the promotion; the most recent booking falling through due to complications in Khabib’s weight cut which resulted in the Russian being rushed to hospital just a day before the fight. That being said, Khabib is fresh off a successful weight cut and win over top-ranked lightweight contender Edson Barboza; a fight which ‘The Eagle’ dominated from start to finish, even scoring 30-24 on one judge’s scorecard.
One thing that has not been made clear as of yet is whether this fight will be for Ferguson’s Interim Championship belt or if the UFC will strip reigning Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor of his title (which he has now held for over a year and still not defended). If Nurmagomedov’s camp is anything to go by we can assume the latter will be true as MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani wrote an article just under a week ago in which Khabib’s manager; Ali Abdelaziz was quoted as saying: “Khabib’s next fight, we’re not fighting for no damn interim belt,”.
Current Interim Champion, Tony Ferguson won his title in impressive fashion against Kevin Lee back in October of last year at UFC 216, finishing him with a triangle choke in the third round. Ferguson (13-1 in the UFC) is on fire at the moment, riding a ten fight winning streak, finishing seven of those fights. His adversary for April 7th is no slouch either; Nurmagomedov has yet to taste defeat in his professional career with 25 wins (9-0 in the UFC). Neither man looks to be slowing down so this one has all the makings of an instant classic and in the minds of many, including myself, is the rightful undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship match-up.
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson will take part in a press conference this Friday. Whether the undisputed or interim title will be on the line will likely be cleared up then.