After Dana White confirmed that Conor McGregor would be taking a break from competing around the birth of his first child, despite a difference of opinion as to how long that break would be, it seemed perfect for two deserving lightweight contenders in Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson to fight in order to see who meets the Irishman when he returns.
March 4th, at UFC 209, was the date originally penciled in, but as we waited and waited for official confirmation it appeared as though an agreement was still some way off.
Ferguson is unhappy with the money being offered to him, and Khabib publicly claimed that he will match what the UFC is offering from his own pocket to make the date official.
— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) January 2, 2017
You don't see that very often. A fighter willing to give money to another in order to agree to fight, but Khabib meant what he said and he backed that up while speaking to Ariel Helwani on The MMA Hour.
The man from Dagestan explained that he wanted the fight because his only goal in MMA is to prove he is the best, and that he does not care about money or fame. He then supported this point by pointing out how calmly he dealt with a drastic drop in earnings by accepting the Michael Johnson fight after being told he was set to fight Eddie Alvarez for the title.
His [Ferguson] contract I think he makes 100,000 or 200,000, and I give him 200,000, like 400,000 is good money for him. Why not? He have to take this fight.
You know what's interesting? 24 fights in UFC, I don't make almost nothing, I never think about money, I never ask.
When UFC give me title shot with Eddie Alvarez, I was supposed to make almost one million, but UFC give this fight to Conor McGregor and after they give me Michael Johnson and I make 100,000. I make 10 times less money than I supposed to make, but I don't say nothing! I take this fight.
It's a very dangerous fight for me, if I lose, I lose everything, but if he lose he don't lose nothing, he win everything. It's very crazy fight for me, but I take this fight. I never talk about money.
He's got a point.
It's very clear what his motivation is, he only wants to fight for the best and compete for the title. Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson would be one of the more appealing headline fights in recent times, these guys are known, the fight will sell. Whether it's Ferguson accepting Khabib's offer or the UFC putting up the money themselves, this fight needs to happen.
The "bullshit" interm belt, as Khabib described it, would then be the ticket for a fight with Conor regardless of what he wants to do upon his return.
Khabib's interview with Helwani was a fascinating watch, and you can see it in full below.