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Tony Ferguson feels ‘freak injury’ during ‘UFC-obligated’ event shouldn’t cost him title

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The physical pain of a ruptured lateral collateral ligament is one thing. But Tony Ferguson said that that learning the UFC was planning on stripping him of his interim lightweight championship after a freak accident which happened on the company’s time was even worse.

After news broke on Sunday that Ferguson had to pull out of his UFC 223 main event against Khabib Nurmagomedov due to his LCL injury, UFC president Dana White told ESPN that the new main event of Nurmagomedov vs. featherweight champion Max Holloway in Las Vegas would be for the “real” lightweight belt, and that Ferguson’s championship would be discarded.

On Monday, Ferguson told MMA Fighting’s Ariel Helwani that learning about his title status in this manner was shocking.

“I haven’t spoken with the UFC yet about what’s next,” Ferguson said on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour. “So when I saw what was in the [ESPN] interview, it shocked me, man, it hurt me even more. It was something I couldn’t control with this injury. This all started snowballing this weekend, man. Of all weekends. The UFC hasn’t said anything to me about my title going away, and I don’t think it will go away.”

The initial injury came during a whirlwind day of promotional appearances on Thusday in Los Angeles. Ferguson was at the FOX lot to do an interview when he tripped over a heavy production cable in a dark room.

“You shouldn’t strip a champion due to a freak injury that happened during a UFC-obligated media event,” Ferguson said.

It was several days from the point of the initial injury until the fight falling out. Ferguson attempted to get on with his regular routine, but things his knee’s condition didn’t get any better.

“It was just a matter of, I slipped, man,” Ferguson said. “I heard it pop. Once we got back to the car after FOX interviewed us, I turned to wife to tell her what happened, and she was concerned. I had a couple of my team members, and UFC staff with me. Afterwards I went home and did a pool workout and I felt tension and danger in my workout. I woke up on Friday with some pain and I still tried to push through it. You guys know me, I’m tough. I tried to train later that evening after taking a day of rest but my knee locked up.”

On Saturday, Ferguson again attempted to train, and that’s when it became apparent something was going to have to give.

“I woke up Saturday with even more pain, but I tried to push through it and train again,” Ferguson said. “But it locked up on me, my knee was giving out a few times, and slowly it dawned on me, I knew something was f*cked up and more serious.”

Ferguson got an MRI done Saturday night, and the results confirmed the worst.

“I’m not a doctor,” Ferguson said. “But when I saw my MRI image, dude, I don’t know about you, but I was like it looked like a flag with my ligament, it was hanging on the side of the pole. I wanted them to shoot me with some sort of numbing shot or whatever they put, but they said it was likely it would blew up whole entire knee.”

On Sunday, Ferguson officially pulled out of the bout. He reports that one doctor believes he needs surgery, another says there are other options, and he’s going to see a specialist before he decides which course to take.

But he doesn’t believe he should be stripped of his championship. “El Cucuy” used the UFC’s own precedent regarding interim titles to make his case. Interim middleweight champion Robert Whittaker held on to his interim belt even after the Michael Bisping vs. Georges St-Pierre bout for the full title was signed for last November. He then became full champion after GSP finished Bisping, then vacated the title.

“I mean seriously, there is a precedent for having a fight for a “real” title and keeping an “interim” title intact,” Ferguson said. “They just did that with Robert Whittaker last year.”

Since he hasn’t heard anything from the UFC directly about his championship status, Ferguson can only hope for the best.

“I just hope they do the right thing.”

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