In the most-anticipated fight in UFC lightweight history, undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov will take on interim champion Tony Ferguson for the lightweight belt at UFC 223.
The fight will take place on April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, and will be streamed live on BT Sport.
Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov, from Dagestan, Russia, has won all 25 fights of his career and recently beat Edson Barboza at UFC 219 on December 30.
He faces Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson, from California, who holds the interim belt since submitting Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in October 2017. His record is 23 wins and three losses.
Conor McGregor will be stripped of his lightweight champion status when the match goes ahead as he hasn’t fought in the UFC since beating Eddie Alvarez in November 2016.
“I’m going to make this fight easy” Khabib
This match has been scheduled three times over the past four years but failed to go ahead each time due to injuries and a weight cut complication.
The co-main event is the Women’s Strawweight Title between champion Rose Namajunas and number one ranked contender Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Khabib is the favourite for this fight due to his unbeaten record. William Hill puts his odds at 4/11 while the interim champion is the underdog at 21/10.
The Eagle is known for his relentless grappling of opponents. He throws them to the ground and rids them of their energy until he submits them. He does this time and time again.
Retired UFC legend Kenny Florian said: “He’s not the most devastating submission artist in the world but what he does positionally is absolutely tremendous. He will get to a half bar and beat the living hell out of you.”
“This is one MMA fans have been waiting for” Jimmy Smith
UFC commentator Jimmy Smith puts it as: “I’ve never once wondered what Khabib’s gonna do, I wonder all the time what Tony Ferguson’s gonna do.
The key clash in this fight is between their two opposing styles. While Khabib grapples his opponents, Ferguson is an all-rounder who switches both stances and attacks.
UFC commentator Joe Rogan said: “If Khabib is the bull in the china shop, Tony Ferguson is the cobra in the grass. He’s the one you don’t see. He’s the one you’re not expecting. He’s the one that strikes and you don’t know where he came from.”
“Tony Ferguson is the cobra in the grass” Joe Rogan
Kenny Florian said: “Ferguson, he has a lot of weapons, he has a lot of tools. He has knockout power. He has a tremendous clinch, he knows how to sit on you on the ground. He will push the pace on you. He is very creative as a fighter. Can he win the fight? Absolutely.”
Talking to UFC’s Thomas Gerbasi, Michael Johnson, from a unique position of having beaten Ferguson and lost to Khabib, said: “The key to beating him (Nurmagomedov) is staying off the ground and keeping him off of you.
“Keep it moving. Tony’s got great movement and the cardio to do it, and he’s gotta stay long and stay out of Khabib’s range of getting grabbed.”
“That b*tch is not gonna touch me. Not one time.” Tony Ferguson
The two fighters had a chance to trade words in a conference call on Wednesday. Ferguson acted aggressively while Khabib remained calm but standoffish. Here are some highlights:
TF: “I’m giving you one chance to quit, walk away and retire.”
TF: “I’m actually working out as I’m talking, what are you doing, f*cking stuffing your face full of tirimasu? It’s not even Tuesday.”
KN: “Your mind is like, stupid.”
TF: “I’m the only Mexican that you can’t be friends with and I’m gonna f*ck you up.”
KN: “I’m gonna knock you out.”
TF: “I’m gonna break your ankles.”
KN: “Why you so nervous? You speak like stupid guy.”
This follows months of build up including Ferguson kicking steel pipes and hitting a speed bag while blindfolded. This fight has all the fans excited and there’s less than a week to go.