While the UFC has tried to match Nurmagomedov against both Ferguson and Jose Aldo, neither has yet come to fruition.
Nurmagomedov doesn't want to fight Aldo. He wants to fight the next top contender behind him in the UFC lightweight division, then he wants champion Conor McGregor. The Russian has steadfastly said this in public comments, while UFC president Dana White revealed recently that Nurmagomedov's trainer father turned down the fight with Aldo.
Nurmagomedov is currently ranked No. 1 in the UFC lightweight division, while Ferguson sits at No. 2. Aldo, meanwhile, is the UFC featherweight champion, but is looking for a fight while interim champion Max Holloway recovers from an injury. It appears that fight won't be with Nurmagomedov.
“It is clear to everyone that you hiding Conor from me. But stop lying to your fans like I don't want fight with Aldo, I'm ready to fight with anyone in my division,” Nurmagomedov posted to Instagram.
“Give me relevant fight, so you won't be able to hide the belt from me after. But not the fight where people say after my victory: he is too small, Khabib too big for him, etc. I'm asking you for match that whole world is waiting for, give me Tony.”
Ferguson also wants the fight with Nurmagomedov. So why hasn't the UFC put it together?
Simple. Ferguson also wants to be paid on par with his Russian counterpart, and the UFC is unwilling to do that.
“We were trying to make that fight. Tony said he will not do that fight unless he makes the same exact money that Khabib makes. Khabib has a different deal. So, that ain’t happening. Count that one out,” White said at his UFC 207 media scrum.
It's not clear how wide the disparity in pay is, but Nurmagomedov wants the fight so bad that he's apparently willing to pony up some cash to make it happen… to the tune of $200,000.
“Hey @TonyFergusonXT, if the @ufc don't want to pay you, I'll pay you 200k extra on your purse. Let's make this fight. Now you have no excuse,” Nurmagomedov tweeted.
That's not what Ferguson wants, however. He wants the UFC to be the ones that step up to the plate.
“If you’ve got Khabib willing to sacrifice his life and give me $200,000 of his own money, something’s wrong with that (expletive),” said Ferguson in an interview on The MMA Hour.
“I’m not going to take that guy’s money. He’s got a family too. So do I, and he’s got bills to pay. So I’m not going after Khabib’s (money). All I want is my stuff right and to be compensated for what my numbers prove to be.”
With several UFC champions either taking some time off or recovering from injury, the promotion has few options for pay-per-view headlining bouts for upcoming events, but a match-up between any two of the Aldo, Nurmagomedov, and Ferguson trio would be headliner worthy. So the pressure is on to see if a deal can be done in some form or fashion.
The question is: Who will blink first?