Why We Likely Will Know Conor McGregor’s Next Opponent After UFC 209

Conor McGregor won’t be fighting any time soon as he awaits the birth of his first child, but that doesn’t mean the lightweight division will stay dormant until his return.

Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 209 in Las Vegas for the interim lightweight championship belt on March 4, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday.

It only makes sense that the winner of this fight will go on to fight McGregor in a unification bout later in 2017. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson are the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked contenders in the UFC lightweight division, and they’ve both earned shots at the title with impressive runs.

Nurmagomedov never has lost an MMA fight, compiling an unblemished 24-0 record along with an 8-0 mark in the UFC. The Russian took a two-year hiatus from the sport after dealing with a number of injuries, but returned triumphantly in 2016 with victories over Darrell Horcher and, most recently, Michael Johnson at UFC 205.

Following his UFC 205 win over Johnson, Nurmagomedov took verbal shots at McGregor, calling him a “chicken” and asking for a title shot.

Ferguson is on a run of his own, having won his last nine fights. He has a 22-3 record and most recently defeated Rafael dos Anjos via unanimous decision in November.

UFC 209 also will be headlined by a sizzling rematch for the welterweight title belt between current champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. The two fought at UFC 205 for the championship, but the fight ended in a majority draw.

Thumbnail photo via Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports Images

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