Ferguson talks Nurmagomedov, interim title and McGregor's potential return to UFC

Khabib Nurmagomedov, left, was expected to face Tony Ferguson, right, earlier this year but was forced to pull out at the last minute due to illness. AP Photo/John Locher

It appears that Tony Ferguson is finally losing his patience.

There's no secret he's had a frustrating year. He hasn't fought in 2017. He was supposed to fight for an interim lightweight title in March, but his opponent, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was hospitalized the day before and the bout was called off.

Ferguson's entire division is somewhat on hold while defending champ Conor McGregor prepares to box Floyd Mayweather on Saturday, Aug. 26, in Las Vegas.

There is no clear indication of what McGregor will do after that. Demand another boxing match? Defend his 155-pound UFC title? Conjure another superfight out of thin air?

Ferguson (22-3), who is scheduled to face Kevin Lee for the interim championship at UFC 216 on Oct. 7, would like to know McGregor's decision -- by Sept. 2.

"Let's say one week after his May-Mac fight," Ferguson told the ESPN's Five Rounds podcast. "That sounds good to me -- what about you?

"He's going to have to defend his [UFC] belt against the person that has the interim title. It's defend or vacate. He can't hold on to the belt and do this other stuff. You did it for a year. You had your kid, all that stuff -- and that's great. But now, let's fight."

UFC president Dana White has said McGregor wants to take an MMA fight before the end of 2017. The UFC has a pay-per-view event scheduled on Dec. 30 in Las Vegas.

White has also said that McGregor, in his return to MMA, is open to facing Nurmagomedov. There is also a potential trilogy bout with Nate Diaz for McGregor to pursue.

Of course, Ferguson believes winning an interim title should solidify him as McGregor's next opponent -- and he said, stylistically, it's clearly the best matchup.

"If Khabib keeps holding off, his fight game's not going to get better," Ferguson said. "He got lit up in the first round [against Michael Johnson last November]. Conor and Khabib, if that s--- goes like that, Khabib is dead. He's going to get eaten up. He's no match for Conor. He needs to fight in order to stay active and stay fresh.

"If [McGregor] wants to fight Nate a third time, fans are going to react a certain way. I mean, I'll squash f---ing Nate. We all know the best fight that's out there is myself and Conor McGregor."

Ferguson is on a nine-fight win streak, the longest active streak in the division.

A fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov (24-0) has eluded fans for years. They have been scheduled to fight multiple times dating back to 2015, but the bout has yet to come off for various reasons.

Ferguson, 33, says Nurmagomedov is "always on the radar" and believes the matchup will happen. Actually, the fact that it's been so cursed to this point probably makes it bigger.

"It's a great superfight," Ferguson said. "It's a great superfight story. There's a lot of buildup in it. If we're going to have that superfight, I think the fans would want to pay for that one. That would have to be the main event of a stacked pay-per-view card.

"We need to go out there and pollute [Nurmagomedov manager] Ali Abdelaziz's Twitter and say, 'Khabib is a chump. You need to fight Tony Ferguson.' We need to start a rampage. If you guys want to see this fight, get off your ass, start being a little more vocal on Twitter, and tell these guys, 'You need to fight Ferguson. Quit running away.'"