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Tony Ferguson would rather fight Khabib Nurmagomedov than Conor McGregor next

Tony Ferguson is willing to face either UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov or former titleholder Conor McGregor, but in an ideal world, he’d square off with “The Eagle” next.

MMA: UFC 216-Ferguson vs Lee Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

Still recovering from a recent knee injury, Tony Ferguson wants to face current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov — not Conor McGregor — upon his return.

The UFC lightweight contender told media at the UFC Hall of Fame red carpet event last week that because he has been scheduled to face the Russian a whopping four times dating back to 2015, he’d rather square off next with Nurmagomedov than the Irish superstar.

That said, Ferguson isn’t closing the door entirely on a fight with McGregor, who hasn’t fought in MMA since a 155-pound title win over Eddie Alvarez in 2016. Ferguson realizes that fighting McGregor likely means a big payday, so he’d be willing to meet “The Notorious,” too.

“Obviously the one I prepared for the most,” Ferguson said when asked if he’d prefer to fight Nurmagomedov or McGregor, who was stripped of the title in April (via TSN). “But, I mean, obviously if the money is right and Conor wants to fight, we’ll make it happen and obviously we’ll talk.”

Ferguson, who has yet to be fully cleared by doctors, hopes to return to training next month. He said it seems likely he will be able to fight again before the end of 2018.

“Once I start impact, then I can start jumping, start doing all these different things,” he said. “Actually, I’m going to take up gymnastics. (I’ve done) a lot of different things for upper body. I did a lot of stuff jiu-jitsu, a lot of my lower body; my lower clinch is a lot better. Just making sure there’s no holes in my game.”

McGregor’s coach John Kavanagh said earlier this month that Nurmagomedov vs. McGregor is in the works, but UFC president Dana White said last weekend that he isn’t even thinking about the McGregor, 30, at this point in time. No fight for the 30-year-old is being discussed, White said.

Ferguson seems to agree with White’s sentiment. Without confirming whether the Nurmagomedov title fight was being discussed or not, Ferguson also predicted that a matchup against Nurmagomedov would be one of the higher “pay-per-view sellouts” in the UFC.

“McGregor, in my opinion, is not in the mix,” Ferguson said. “It’s Khabib and me. It’s ‘El Cucuy’ vs. ‘The Eagle.’”

Ferguson hopes to McGregor back in the cage at one point or another.

“I would like to see him fight again, not because of what the tabloids and everybody says are going on, but because he’s an athlete, straight up,” he said. “I’ve seen him, I’ve met him, I’ve talked to him. A lot of these fighters are out there, it’s just a front. I’m not gonna expose his cover, but look, man, do your sh-t, handle it, and get back on the f-cking mat.”