From 'fake Mexican' to street cred: Khabib, Tony Ferguson verbally spar at UFC 249 press conference

LAS VEGAS – UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are beyond familiarizing themselves with one another.

Matched up four times before, the two men are preparing to finally meet next month at UFC 249. On Friday, Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC) and Ferguson (25-3 MMA, 15-1 UFC) traded barbs for the better half of a 25-minute news conference as they sat across from each other with only UFC president Dana White separating them.

The challenger came out high-energy from the start, sporting a pair of MMA gloves and carrying two baseballs. One of the baseballs was immediately chucked into the stands, while the other remained with him. Conversely, Nurmagomedov entered unassumingly and took a seat.

Almost immediately after the first question was asked, Ferguson pointed out his old interim UFC belt he brought to the stage. From there, Ferguson revealed he plans on sparring for the first time since early 2015. Ferguson then turned his attention to Nurmagomedov.

“Oh, wait. Hold on,” Ferguson said. “You like beating on high school wrestlers who are preparing for state the week (after)? And you like having homeless people do push-ups in New York and making fun of them. I owe you two to the stomach, and you owe me 20 push-ups, but I will do the push-ups with you when you lose.”

Nurmagomedov remained relatively calm for the duration but engaged in a few exchanges. As the news conference progressed, Nurmagomedov became more visibly invested in the back-and-forth.

“Who are you?” Nurmagomedov said. “You’ve fought a few American guys. You’ve never fought in the streets. I’m from (Russia). I can eat you. What are you talking about?”

All throughout the press conference, White wouldn’t dive deeply into questions that implied the four-times-scheduled bout would be canceled for any reason – whether it was Conor McGregor or the coronavirus.

In the final questions, the vitriol peaked. The argument restarted following almost every question – and the bickering elongated with each exchange. At one point, Ferguson told Nurmagomedov he’s learning from a Mexican (likely referencing his coach Javier Mendez). In response, Nurmagomedov called Ferguson a “fake Mexican,” which riled up the Mexican-American.

“You’re not from Mexico,” Nurmagomedov said. “You’re not a real Mexican. You’re a fake Mexican. First you say you’re American, now you’re talking about you being Mexican. Where are you from? Where are you from? You’re not real Mexican. No, no, no, buddy, you’re a California guy. You’re not Mexican. These two are different.”

The news conference ended with a mouthy faceoff. When Ferguson placed his belt on the ground in an effort to flex, Nurmagomedov punted it over. White and security stepped in and ensured the fighters got close – but not too close.

You can watch highlights of Nurmagomedov and Ferguson during the news conference in the video above.

UFC 249 takes place April 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN2 and ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass.

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