Khabib Nurmagomedov has offered an olive branch to Tony Ferguson, sending a message of support to his rival following the latter's crushing interim title defeat to Justin Gaethje on Sunday.
Ferguson, who had been slated to initially face Nurmagomedov for the lightweight crown, was soundly beaten by Gaethje in the headline bout at UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida. Losing a hugely one-sided affair by TKO in the fifth round, it marked his first defeat in eight years, snapping a 12-fight win streak.
The original UFC 249 was supposed to be headlined last month by a Nurmagomedov-Ferguson clash for the former’s lightweight belt, but the coronavirus crisis eventually led to its cancellation.
Nurmagomedov, 28-0 in mixed martial arts, was unable to leave his native Russia because of travel restrictions implemented amid the pandemic, meaning a fight between the pair was called off for the fifth time.
Long-time foes, the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson rivalry has heated up the past few months with both exchanging verbal barbs in the build-up to, and fallout from, their ultimately doomed April 18 clash.
However, Nurmagomedov appears to be prepared to let that go. In a post on social media early on Monday, he wrote: “Whatever happened is in the past. Heads up Tony, I hope everything is good with you and your family. When your son grow up, he’ll be proud with you.”
Ferguson, meanwhile, seems in good spirits. He had left UFC 249 severely beaten up by Gaethje and was taken to hospital, but he posted a video of himself on Monday dancing to the news that he was just about to be discharged.
While Ferguson's much-anticipated fight with Nurmagomedov might now never happen, the Dagestan native is expected to take on Gaethje in a unification bout later this year. Abu Dhabi has even been mooted as a possible location.