Ten days ago, during a Q&A session in Scotland, Conor McGregor said he would be watching the UFC 216 main event featuring Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight championship with a keen eye. He wanted to see if one of them could emerge and pique his interest.
Ferguson emerged victorious from Saturday’s event, submitting Lee in the third round to become the interim champion. He held up his end of the bargain, but when handed the microphone in his post-fight interview, one question remained: would Ferguson deliver a promo that would catch McGregor’s attention?
“Where you at McNuggets, ya f—ing piece of s—,” Ferguson said to Joe Rogan. “I’m gonna kick your ass. You better come and f—ing defend that belt. Defend or vacate, motherf—er.”
The worst kept secret in the fight game is that fights always comes down to dollars and cents. Which means sorry, Tony Ferguson, you aren’t Conor McGregor’s next opponent. Nate Diaz is.
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The art of a good promo is to make people believe what you are saying, and Ferguson did just that. To add the icing on the cake, Dana White said the talk of a trilogy fight between McGregor and Diaz was just that, and Ferguson vs. McGregor would be happening next.
“Nobody’s talked about Diaz,” White said his UFC 216 post-fight press conference. “Diaz has never been talked about. That’s internet bulls—. Tony’s the interim champion, Conor’s the champion, that’s the fight that makes sense. It’s the fight that has to happen, it doesn’t ‘make sense,’ it’s the fight that has to happen.”
While White’s certainty of a McGregor vs. Ferguson seems absolute, it pales in comparison to what McGregor and Diaz III would do. Deep down, Diaz and McGregor likely respect each other, but from what we’ve seen, the hatred shared between them is real. Great fights and builds feed off of fighters hating one another and wanting to see them fight.
You can’t discredit anything Ferguson has done: He’s 24-3 (10 consecutive victories), the interim 155-pound champion and understands how to sell a fight. A bout between Ferguson and McGregor would likely be one for the ages. Both like to stand and trade heavy leather: combine that with the fact Ferguson has the best submission game in the division, you’re looking at a big draw on PPV.
After all, McGregor and Diaz have a score to settle to see who the better fighter truly is. Diaz won the first bout by second-round submission at UFC 196 back in March 2016. McGregor won the rematch at UFC 202 in Aug. 2016 by majority decision in a fight many felt was the best of the year. The fights reportedly did 1.6 million and 1.65 million respectively, breaking UFC records.
The UFC is in the business of making big fights that make big money that capture the fans and mainstream media’s attention. Is McGregor vs. Ferguson that fight? To the hardcore fan, absolutely. But while it would do very well, it’s not a record-breaker.
McGregor vs. Diaz III would shatter the record and would likely do over two million PPV buys. Will McGregor ever face Ferguson? Absolutely. It’s a fantastic fight that will happen at some point.