Tony Ferguson hit out at lightweight rivals Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor ahead of headlining UFC 249 against Justin Gaethje at Jacksonville, Florida, this weekend.
As the debate rages on about whether the UFC should end its coronavirus-enforced hiatus on Saturday night, Ferguson insisted his willingness to fight should see him regarded as the top dog at 155lb and not Nurmagomedov.
Ferguson was set to take on Nurmagomedov last month but a showdown was scrapped because of the pandemic, the fifth time an encounter between the pair has failed to materialise, with UFC fans dubbing the saga ‘the cursed fight’.
And ahead of his bout against Gaethje for the interim lightweight title, Ferguson said at the UFC’s virtual media day: “To me (Khabib) doesn’t even exist.
Ferguson vs Gaethje.
🏆 The Octagon returns in 24 hours.
— UFC (@ufc) May 8, 2020
“Khabib didn’t want the fight, he ran away like a dog with his tail between his legs, it’s the same thing with Conor. Where are they at? Obviously they’re back home trying to quarantine and we’re here crushing quarantine.”
As Ferguson looks to extend his winning sequence to 13 fights, the 36-year-old had warmer words for Gaethje, who has 21 victories in his 23 mixed martial arts contests, 18 by knockout.
“Honestly I have nothing against the kid, he’s awesome,” Ferguson added. “They call him the Human Highlight for a reason.”
Also on the bill, former two-time bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz steps back into the octagon for the first time in three and a half years against current 135lb titlist Henry Cejudo.
Cruz has not fought since losing the belt to Cody Garbrandt in December 2016 but the 35-year-old American insists his time away from the sport has allowed him to fully heal from a number of injuries.
“My body’s healthy,” he said. “I was fighting with a shoulder injury for about three title fights. It was constantly aching, constantly sore and I was constantly having to ice.
“Now I don’t have to do any of that, now it’s stronger than ever, so are my knees, my hands are completely rebuilt.
“I feel great, I feel stronger than I’ve done for a long time. The time off has served me very well.”