The biggest piece of disappointing news for this UFC 223 fight week was the sudden pullout of Tony Ferguson from his scheduled headliner title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov. As Ferguson himself explained, it happened during a pre-fight media obligation on Friday where he slipped and tore a ligament in his knee.
As a consequence, the UFC tapped featherweight champion Max Holloway to step in with just a few days’ notice to replace Ferguson. At the same time, they also decided to strip Ferguson of the interim title, which “El Cucuy” responded to on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour.
“I haven’t spoken with the UFC yet about what’s next,” Ferguson said (via MMA Fighting). “So when I saw what was in the [ESPN] interview, it shocked me, man, it hurt me even more. It was something I couldn’t control with this injury.”
“This all started snowballing this weekend, man. Of all weekends. The UFC hasn’t said anything to me about my title going away, and I don’t think it will go away.”
Ferguson said he tried to push through the pain and continue working out, but everything only took a turn for the worse after he got an MRI scan on Saturday night.
“I’m not a doctor,” Ferguson said. “But when I saw my MRI image, dude, I don’t know about you, but I was like it looked like a flag with my ligament, it was hanging on the side of the pole. I wanted them to shoot me with some sort of numbing shot or whatever they put, but they said it was likely it would blow up the whole entire knee.”
As for being stripped of the title, Ferguson compared his situation to that of middleweight champion Robert Whittaker’s, who was able to hold on to the interim 185-pound title even until after Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre fought for the undisputed title at UFC 217.
“I mean seriously, there is a precedent for having a fight for a ‘real’ title and keeping an ‘interim’ title intact. They just did that with Robert Whittaker last year,” Ferguson said.
“You shouldn’t strip a champion due to a freak injury that happened during a UFC-obligated media event.”