Tony Ferguson is taking a look at UFC 249 as his likelihood so as to add one other title protection to his resume, not declare a second interim belt.

Ferguson (25-Three MMA, 15-1 UFC) is adamant that Saturday’s essential occasion with Justin Gaethje determines the highest participant within the UFC light-weight division. Khabib Nurmagomedov could technically maintain that standing as undisputed champion, however “El Cucuy” protests that notion after his rival was compelled to withdraw from UFC 249 as a result of journey restrictions introduced on by the coronavirus pandemic.

“(Expletive) Khabib,” Ferguson advised reporters on Tuesday’s UFC 249 convention name. “I’m defending my belt for the third time. That is for the true belt, this isn’t for an interim title. That is for the true championship (expletive). It’s champ (expletive) solely, buddy.”

The primary occasion between Ferguson and Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is formally for the interim 155-pound belt, however Ferguson already achieved that standing as soon as earlier than when he submitted Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in October 2017. Ferguson was finally stripped of that interim belt when an damage compelled him out of an April 2018 matchup with Nurmagomedov, however he’s gained a number of fights since then.

Ferguson has by no means been hesitant to boost points with how the state of affairs unfolded, and after Nurmagomedov needed to withdraw from the initially scheduled April 18 date for UFC 249, which opened the door for Gaethje to take his place, Ferguson felt his stance was validated.

The historical past books will present a distinct story, although, and Ferguson must get previous Gaethje, then unify with Nurmagomedov, to take away any doubt.

Ferguson is entrenched in his “(expletive) Khabib” place, although, and mentioned “The Eagle” ought to retire from MMA. Gaethje, in the meantime, supplied a extra lifelike view going into UFC 249.

“The interim belt means for me that you simply’ll be acknowledged because the No. 2 man on this planet,” Gaethje mentioned. “Khabib can’t combat proper now, so these are the 2 baddest man within the weight class combating this weekend for the suitable to name themselves one of the best then in the end problem Khabib. I believe we’re combating for the chance to symbolize America towards Khabib. That’s what I’m combating for.”

UFC 249 takes place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Area in Jacksonville, Fla., with a essential card scheduled to air on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+.