Khabib Nurmagomedov doesn't see his long-awaited fight against Tony Ferguson ever coming to fruition.
The UFC lightweight champion, who is scheduled to defend his title against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on Oct. 24 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, was supposed to face Ferguson in April. Nurmagomedov withdrew due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions, and Ferguson lost to Gaethje in a May interim title fight.
Nurmagomedov-Ferguson has been scheduled five times since 2015, but each iteration has been canceled for various reasons. Ferguson had long been considered one of the toughest prospective challenges for Nurmagomedov, who's 28-0 as a professional. But with "El Cucuy" falling short for the first time since 2012 in a fifth-round TKO loss to Gaethje, Nurmagomedov believes "his time is finished."
"Nobody can be the same for a long time - one day, somebody gonna beat you, something gonna happen, God doesn't give nobody the power, reaction, mental, one level, always," Nurmagomedov told ESPN's Brett Okamoto. "One day you're going to go down and his day come. It was May. Tony Ferguson is finished now.
"He's gonna come back, and someone gonna beat him again, I believe. Because when you take damage like this, you're never going to be the same. Never. Even if you're Tony Ferguson."
UFC president Dana White recently said he'd be willing to try to schedule Nurmagomedov-Ferguson for the sixth time because "people want to see it." He said the promotion is working on booking a fight for Ferguson, and if the 36-year-old wins, he could be next in line for the Nurmagomedov-Gaethje winner.
Ferguson, who had won 12 straight fights before running into Gaethje, was expected to face Dustin Poirier at UFC 254, but Poirier failed to come to terms with the UFC.