The interim UFC lightweight championship will be up for grabs later this year — but Khabib Nurmagomedov won’t have an opportunity to capture it.
UFC president Dana White, while talking to the media after Week 6 of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series in Las Vegas (via ESPN’s Brett Okamoto), announced Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee will be fighting for the interim belt. White didn’t 100-percent know what event it was scheduled for, but mentioned UFC 216.
White said Nurmagomedov is injured and “just not ready,” which is presumably the only reason the UFC opted to book Ferguson vs. Lee instead of Ferguson vs. Nurmagomedov.
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov were scheduled to fight for the interim title at UFC 209 in March, but the highly-anticipated 155-pound fight was cancelled the day before the event, because the Russian fell ill due to weight-cutting issues. This was the third time the lightweight contenders were matched up against one another, but the first time with interim gold on the line.
The interim title is in play here because champion Conor McGregor has not fought since his title win over Eddie Alvarez last November and is booked to face Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match in two weeks.
UFC 216 takes place from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Oct. 7. It isn’t known whether Ferguson vs. Lee will headline the card.
Ferguson has won nine in a row and most recently defeated former champion Rafael dos Anjos by decision in November 2016. He also holds wins over Edson Barboza and Josh Thomson.
Lee is riding a five-fight winning streak, and four of those wins have come by way of stoppage. In his last fight, the 24-year-old submitted Michael Chiesa in his first main event.
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