It broke Michael Chiesa’s heart to pull out of his last scheduled fight with Tony Ferguson in July 2016 after a back injury put him on the sidelines.
Following his recovery, Chiesa got back into training and immediately started searching out a new opponent for his return to action. Chiesa’s name was actually thrown into the mix when the UFC was struggling with negotiations with Ferguson for his bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209.
When that fight didn’t happen, Chiesa then turned his attention to former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez, but then he was just recently matched up against Dustin Poirier in a showdown at UFC 211 in Dallas this May.
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Chiesa can’t be certain why Alvarez didn’t pick him as an opponent, but he knows the fight was being offered as a possible matchup by the UFC.
“It was discussed,” Chiesa told the Fight Society podcast about the proposed matchup with Alvarez. “Listen, him being a former champion, him being higher ranked he gets first choice. They gave him a list of guys and he gets to choose and rightfully so. He earned that right, he gets to pick amongst the guys that he was offered but I do know the UFC was pushing more for the fight with me than others.
“It’s just unfortunate he didn’t take it.”
With Alvarez no longer a viable option, Chiesa is setting his sights even higher.
A weight cutting disaster forced Nurmagomedov out of his scheduled bout with Ferguson this past weekend at UFC 209 so now Chiesa would like nothing more than to revisit the fight he was supposed to have last year.
Chiesa has nothing but the utmost respect for Ferguson, but neither fighter has an opponent right now so he believes it’s the perfect time to put them back together again.
“That’s the fight I’m pushing for. That’s where my head’s at now,” Chiesa said about fighting Ferguson. “I was pushing for Eddie on the pretense that Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and Tony [Ferguson] were going to fight. Now that the fight fell through, I’ve immediately shifted gears and it’s Khabib or Tony. If Khabib’s going to be out till September, then I would love more than anything the opportunity to compete against Tony. Technically, we have unfinished business.
“We were on the back end of a training camp for each other when I had to pull out of the fight. Tony was respectful of that. He knows what it’s like to have to pull out of a fight on short order. I’m ready to go. Let’s do this.”
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Nurmagomedov hasn’t stated when he’ll be ready to return to action but he will begin celebrating Ramadan at the end of May, which would likely make him unavailable again until late summer. Unless, Nurmagomedov gets booked for the fight with Ferguson ahead of Ramadan, that would leave the No. 2 ranked lightweight contender without an opponent.
Chiesa would likely nothing more than to fill that role and give Ferguson the fight they were supposed to have last year.
“I am 110-percent ready to go. I will sign on the dotted line right now. This is not an exaggeration. This is a fight I’ve had my eye on for over a year. I had my sights set on Tony Ferguson for a long time,” Chiesa said.
“I think I match up great with anybody in the division honestly. I think a fight between me and Tony, that’s got excitement written all over it. Tony’s won six bonuses in his last five fights. I’ve won five bonuses in my nine fight UFC career. We’re just guys who go out there and go after it. We’re not going to take a step backwards. We’re going to beat each other up and ultimately, I aim to see my hand get raised.”
Of course, Chiesa also knows that Ferguson has also stated recently that he would like to wait for lightweight champion Conor McGregor to return and he actually understands that stream of logic. In fact, Chiesa wouldn’t blame Ferguson one bit if he wanted to wait for McGregor, but the Irishman may not return in 2017 while still trying to negotiate a boxing match against Floyd Mayweather.
In that case, Chiesa believes booking a fight with Ferguson would make the most sense and if the UFC’s still interested in crowning an interim champion, he would gladly accept that stipulation as well.
“I think we’re meant to fight each other,” Chiesa said. “I think this was all meant to be. I hope that my gut’s right and it’s me and Tony for the interim title. It’s the fight to make.”