Ferguson-Nurmagomedov top choice for White – but Ferguson-Gaethje also intriguing

LAS VEGAS – The thrice-canceled bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson may get a fourth attempt.

But if Nurmagomedov (24-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) isn’t able to solve the issues that led him to withdraw from the third attempted booking, newly minted star Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) could take his place.

UFC President Dana White said Gaethje’s callout of Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) – and Ferguson’s response – didn’t prompt him to immediately make the fight. He had other things in mind.

Tony Ferguson responds to Justin Gaethje – and he'll 'beat that ass' for an interim title
“I actually still want to see Khabib vs. Tony,” White said on Saturday. “It doesn’t have to happen first, but I’d kind of like to see it.

“I know that Khabib is set up to come to Las Vegas and go to the (UFC) Performance Institute and work with the nutritionists there and therapists. But if he’s not ready to fight, I’d go Gaethje and Tony.”

Gaethje made a sensational debut Friday at The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, bringing the house to its feet with a back-and-forth battle with Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC) in the FS1-televised headliner. After getting rocked multiple times, he walked away with a second-round TKO to stay unbeaten.

Afterward, Gaethje welcomed any potential foe and estimated he had one or two fights before being ready to vie for a title. But he specifically targeted Ferguson as his ideal opponent for an interim title bout, even though he thought Ferguson wouldn’t accept.

One day later, he was proven wrong when Ferguson responded – with the caveat that the fight would have to be for an interim title.

As it turns out, Gaethje may have to wait for Ferguson. But in the meantime, White said, there are plenty of good options on the table in the lightweight division while current champ Conor McGregor is focused on his upcoming boxing mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.