At UFC 249, Justin Gaethje will face Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title and the winner is likely to face the undisputed, undefeated, reigning champion Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year. Nurmagomedov is 28-0 in his professional MMA career, including a 12-fight winning streak since entering the UFC with wins over Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Rafael dos Anjos, Al Iaquinta, and Edson Barboza to name a few.
Nurmagomedov had been to schedule for a fight against Tony Ferguson to take place at UFC 249, originally set for April 18 but due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic, that matchup has now been canceled five times over the course of five years.
After a bitter rivalry finally resulted in a meeting inside the Octagon, Nurmagomedov defeated former lightweight champion Conor McGregor by fourth-round submission at UFC 229 in October of 2018. The bad blood did not end there as members of both teams were involved in a post-fight melee following Nurmagomedov’s win and adding to the rivalry of these two. Although the champion is focused on whoever the interim champion will become this weekend, his head coach Javier Mendez believes “The Notorious” still presents the biggest threat.
Making an appearance this week on ‘The Luke Thomas Show’ on Sirius XM’s Fight Nation, Mendez revealed why he believes McGregor is the toughest opponent for the undefeated Nurmagomedov.
— MMA on SiriusXM (@MMAonSiriusXM) May 6, 2020
“I’m sorry, I think it’s still Conor even though people may disagree with me, I just know how good Conor is. I think Conor is the toughest fight to date. He’s [Tony] got way better cardio but Conor was dangerous. Any time you let Conor unleash any kind of striking, he can put you out and that’s why I think he was so dangerous to me.
“You let Conor get in his groove, he would’ve done some amazing damage if we would’ve allowed him to, but of course that wasn’t going to happen. I still fear him, I really do. Not that I don’t fear any of the other guys, but I still fear him. I still think he definitely is on the level of who can do what, I think he’s still one of the guys that I would more homework on.”
Both Ferguson and Gaethje present different challenges and each would have a different gameplan in a fight against Nurmagomedov, but Mendez would still consider McGregor the toughest opponent for the undefeated champion. Although it was originally believed that he wouldn’t return until later this Fall, Nurmagomedov took to social media on Wednesday and revealed he could return as soon as July.