LAS VEGAS — We’ve been here before, so there was no need for Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov to exchange pleasantries at the press conference for their lightweight title showdown at UFC 249.
For the fifth time, Nurmagomedov and Ferguson are scheduled to meet. However, this time it will be for Nurmagomedov's UFC lightweight title. And the bad blood between the two fighters reached a boiling point in front of fans who came to see the two go face to face.
Ferguson was the instigator from the outset as he brought his old UFC interim lightweight belt to the stage with him as he routinely fired verbal barbs at Nurmagomedov. The potshots came at a furious rate, and the normally calm, cool and collected Nurmagomedov was visibly unnerved by Ferguson as the conference went on.
The lightweight champion finally became uncorked when the topic of street fighting was brought up.
“Who are you?” Nurmagomedov barked at Ferguson. “You’ve fought a few American guys. You’ve never fought in the streets. I’m from (Russia). I can eat you. What are you talking about?”
Tempers flared but Ferguson often laughed it off as Nurmagomedov became increasingly irritated. Interestingly enough, Conor McGregor attempted to deploy the same strategy of mind games against the undefeated Russian but didn’t come quite close to getting this kind of reaction.
“I know how to get to people,” Ferguson told DAZN News afterward. “It’s kind of funny (how it happened) but it’s a good trait to have.”
If agitating the champion was a part of his strategy, it certainly worked. After every question, an argument ensued between the two fighters. But while Ferguson would eventually laugh off the exchanges, Nurmagomedov grew increasingly more frustrated with his April 18 foe and resorted to insults for payback.
“You are a fake Mexican,” Nurmagomedov said. “You’re not a real Mexican. First you say you’re American, now you’re talking about you being Mexican. Where are you from? Where are you from? You’re not real Mexican. No, no, buddy, you’re a California guy. You’re not Mexican. These two are different.”
Ferguson would tell DAZN News that nothing Nurmagomedov said bothered him in the slightest, and he did exactly what he set out to do. As the press conference came to a conclusion with a heated faceoff, Ferguson laid his interim title down on the ground in front of Nurmagomedov. The champion responded by kicking the title nearly off the stage and into the crowd.
“It pissed him off, didn’t it?” Ferguson said. “You saw him kick my belt. It’s cool. He’s disrespecting the UFC. I’ll see him soon.”