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Tony Ferguson can't wait to 'derail' Khabib's hype train and 'knock that mop off his head'

Ferguson promises to hand Khabib Nurmagomedov the first loss of his career at UFC 209.

In many ways, the highly anticipated matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson is reminiscent of the 2011 heavyweight bout between Cain Velasquez and Junior dos Santos.

Like Velasquez and dos Santos, 'El Cucuy' and 'The Eagle' are considered the crème de la crème of the lightweight division, and both men have a tonne of hype behind them heading into UFC 209, where they will meet in the co-main event for the interim lightweight title.

Ferguson, a winner of The Ultimate Fighter 13, is riding a nine-fight win streak and is ranked as the No. 2 lightweight contender in the world. Nurmagomedov, 28, is undefeated at 24-0 and is one of the most feared Sambo practitioners in the sport.

Nurmagomedov, in particular, has been touted as the future of the 155-pound division for some time, but Ferguson plans to 'derail the hype train' on Saturday night.

Speaking to Luke Thomas of MMA Fighting, the 33-year-old Ferguson looks forward to handing Nurmagomedov his first professional loss and knocking that 'mop' — Khabib's Papakha — off his head.

"I just can't wait to derail this hype train," Ferguson said. "He just has a lot of hype behind him and a lot of people - big head. I just can't wait to knock that mop off his head and use it as a mop."

Nurmagomedov, a proud Dagestani, wrestled bears in his childhood but Ferguson says he's never had to deal with a 'California grizzly'.

"This is a different animal," Ferguson said. "He's wrestled bears before but he's never wrestled this kind of California grizzly."

No matter the result of tomorrow's co-main event, it seems almost inevitable that, like dos Santos and Velasquez, Ferguson and Nurmagomedov will square off again in the near-future.

The UFC 209 interim lightweight championship tilt between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson takes place tomorrow, March 4, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.