Updated January 3, 2020 - 6:09 pm
The UFC might have a backup plan in case April’s lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and champion Khabib Nurmagomedov falls through for a fifth time.
Conor McGregor plans to be ready to step in, assuming he defeats Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone on Jan. 18 at UFC 246 at T-Mobile Arena, according to UFC president Dana White.
“Conor wants to fight three times this year,” White told ESPN. “He’s hoping that if he beats Cowboy, he can turn right around and fight Khabib, but that timing and math isn’t going to work out. But you know Conor. Conor thinks the way Conor thinks. His thing is, I’ll fight Cowboy, I’ll beat Cowboy, and I’ll be ready to fight Khabib at 155 if anything happens, because we’re going into Khabib-Tony again. So Conor would be ready for that fight.”
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been booked to fight four times. They have yet to make it to the cage because of a variety of circumstances. White once said he would never attempt to book the fight again, but relented because both fighters essentially have cleaned out the rest of the division.
The bout is scheduled for April 18 in Brooklyn, New York, as the main event of UFC 249.
McGregor would be an interesting choice to step into a title bout, as he has not won a fight since November 2016 and is coming off a one-sided loss to Nurmagomedov in October 2018.
He can get back on track with a win over Cerrone, but the UFC 246 main event will be contested at 170 pounds.
White also said McGregor is interested in taking on welterweight star Jorge Masvidal, though White has been resistant.
“I think everybody knows what I think about it,” he said. “I think it’s a bad idea.
“Conor gets (upset) when I say it’s a bad idea, and he’s like, ‘You think I can’t beat Masvidal?’ I’m not saying you can’t beat Masvidal. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day, but why? Why go after that fight when you could possibly just wait?”
McGregor is apparently interested in going after the “Baddest Mother (Expletive)” belt Masvidal won for beating Nate Diaz in November, though it was never intended to be more than a one-off trophy.
Tavares out with injury
Las Vegas middleweight Brad Tavares has been forced out of his UFC Fight Night 170 bout against Antonio Carlos Junior because of a knee injury.
Tavares has lost two straight fights after winning four in a row.
UFC Fight Night 170, which features the return of women’s strawweight star Paige VanZant against Amanda Ribas, will be March 14 in Brasilia, Brazil.
‘Rampage’ felt like ‘hippopotamus’
Quinton “Rampage” Jackson appeared out of shape in his return to competition after 13 months away and was knocked out by Fedor Emelianenko 2:44 into the first round of a Bellator and Rizin co-promotion in Japan this week.
Jackson, a former UFC light heavyweight champion, tipped the scales at the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds.
“It’s all good — I’m not in a bad mood,” Jackson said. “I just know what I got to do. I got to get my damn weight down. I felt like a hippopotamus out there. But that’s my fault. No excuses. It’s all right. I’ll be back. But I ain’t coming back at heavyweight. I’ve got to lose this weight.”
PFL crowns champions
Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison led the list of six champions crowned on the Professional Fighters League season championship card Tuesday in New York.
Harrison won all five rounds over Larissa Pacheco to take a unanimous decision in the women’s lightweight championship bout.
The six winners all took home a $1 million prize.
Ray Cooper III (welterweight), Ali Isaev (heavyweight), Natan Schulte (lightweight), Lance Palmer (featherweight) and Emiliano Sordi (light heavyweight) also won their divisions.
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Jan. 18: UFC 246 (ESPN Plus), T-Mobile Arena
Jan. 25: UFC Fight Night 166 (ESPN Plus), Raleigh, N.C.
Feb. 8: UFC 247 (ESPN Plus), Houston
Feb. 15: UFC Fight Night 167 (ESPN Plus), Rio Rancho, N.M.