Michael Chiesa is one of many top lightweights aiming for some kind of UFC belt.
The winner of The Ultimate Fighter 15 is getting ready for his return to the Octagon after suffering a back injury last July that left him unable to compete. Upon return, Chiesa, who’s currently ranked seventh in the division and riding a three-fight win streak, is aiming for a title eliminator bout with the man he was supposed to fight in July before sustaining his back injury: Tony Ferguson.
However, the problem is that Ferguson, who’s arguably the top contender of the lightweight division, believes that Chiesa missed his chance back in July and is no longer interested in fighting him. Now at the top of the division, Ferguson wants an interim title fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov or Nate Diaz.
Chiesa calls Ferguson’s unwillingness to fight him hypocritical.
“Well, I mean, it’s kind of hypocritical, he’s pulled out of a fight before and what did he do? He tried to go back and get the rematch with Khabib,” Chiesa told Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “I don’t see why it would be out of the realm of possibilities for me to do the same thing. I had a ruptured disk, I wasn’t sick at the hospital with the flu or whatever he had, I had a disk bulging out of my spine, and that’s a real big difference, but, you know, if he doesn’t want it, than whatever.
“What’s with these that are ranked higher than me asking for fights with guys that are lower [ranked] than me? It doesn’t make any sense. I understand Nate is a money fight at this point, he’s a pay-per-view draw, but Tony, you’re not a pay-per-view draw, Nate is not going to fight you, so let’s run it back. I’m not speaking illogically, all the match ups that I ask for make sense. Big deal, I ruptured a disk, I rehabbed, and now I’m back.”
With Nurmagomedov being hospitalized earlier this month due to weight cutting complications, which canceled the UFC 209 fight with Ferguson, and with Ramadan coming up in May, it’s unlikely to see the Muslim fighter get rebooked to fight Ferguson for the interim title. And with Diaz being one slot behind Chiesa in the rankings and not wanting to fight for less than $20 million, ‘Maverick’ believes that he’s the opponent that makes the most sense for Ferguson.
“To me, it makes sense,” Chiesa explained. “I’m on a win streak, we were supposed to fight, there is some history, so let’s run it back. You can’t just sit there and say that I pulled out of a fight, like, I wasn’t ducking you, bro. I couldn’t walk for almost two weeks, I couldn’t get out of my couch. You [Ferguson] were laying in the hospital with some flu, come on, man, just shut up and fight. Nate is not going to fight you, Nate is going to fight the trilogy with Conor McGregor, and he deserves that. He’s a money fight now, Nate is a badass fighter, but it’s just never going to happen. It’s kinda hipocritical for him to say those kind of things. We have a story line, we were supposed to fight, it was supposed to be a main event, so let’s up the steaks, let’s put 12 pounds of gold on the line. You want to be champion? Maybe you should go through me.”
With lightweight champion Conor McGregor taking some time off for the birth of his first child, and also chasing a superfight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., the title picture at 155 pounds seems foggy, to say the least. Chiesa calls the title situation disheartening, as today there is no clear path to the belt.
“It can be very disheartening, you know,” Chiesa said. “But the fans are starting to catch on. When they [UFC] announced the GSP-Bisping fight there was a lot of people that were like, ‘what the hell is this?’ People are starting to catch on to the rankings not really meaning anything, and kind of in the grand scheme of things, the way the landscape is in the UFC is right now. They need to make big money fights, and I understand why, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to start fighting guys that aren’t ranked, and be like screw it and disregard the idea of fighting the best guys in the world.
“One day I will be a world champion and it will be in the UFC, I know it deep down in my guts, 100 percent. At the end of the day, I want to fight the best guys in the world, that’s what I’m here to do, and that’s what I dream of being: the best in the world. Even with the way these fights are panning out, with Conor leaping around and doing his thing, I’m still going to strive to fight the best guys, I’m going to strive to fight guys who were former world champions. I’m going to push for that Ferguson fight, I want to headline a card against him, and I want it to be for the interim world title. I’m on a three-fight win streak, so let’s do this in June. I want to fight the best guys, but I’m not going to let these things I can’t control get to me. I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing, I’m going to keep beating the best guys, to where I have to force their hand. That’s really what you have to do in order to to get what you want at this point in time.”