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Khabib Nurmagomedov swears he never considered Tony Ferguson an ‘elite lightweight’

A fight between Khabib and Ferguson has become one of the many “what-ifs” in MMA.

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Tony Ferguson was never an elite lightweight, that’s according to the retired UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Nurmagomedov and Ferguson’s rivalry has been ongoing ever since they were first booked to fight in 2015. Six years and four failed bookings later, the two fighters are in very different stages of their careers.

The undefeated Khabib (29-0) retired from MMA last October after defending his title against Justin Gaethje whilst Ferguson (25-5) has lost his last two UFC fights against Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje.

Talking recently to ACA fighter Magomed Ismailov, Khabib cited Ferguson’s age and his past opponents as reasons why ‘El Cucuy’ has never been “elite”.

“I swear that I never considered him [Ferguson] as an elite lightweight,” Khabib said.

“He was very good, but I never counted him so, because it’s impossible to be an elite at 37 years (of age). It’s never been before and Khabib cannot do this. At 37 years in the lightweight division, no way, but heavyweights can. It’s my opinion and you cannot change it. Secondly, since 2016 he fought Kevin Lee, Edson Barboza, Anthony Pettis, and Donald Cerrone and these four fighters have 20 losses for these four years.”

The former interim titleholder Ferguson was unbeaten for eight years, but Gaethje stopped his twelve-fight winning streak at UFC 249 last May. At 37-years-old, questions have been raised as to whether the out of form Ferguson will be able to make another run at the lightweight title.

“It means that since 2016 he didn’t fight good fighters,” Khabib continued. “But now, he faced young and top fighters, I mean Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. They outclassed him, you saw this. Both fighters just dominated Tony. I was just dreaming about this fight. But it wasn’t destined, we had injuries in a row.”

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