While waiting for Conor McGregor, UFC delivers Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson March 4

Conor McGregor holds up his title belts after he defeated Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight title at UFC 205.
(Julio Cortez / Associated Press)

In the absence of Conor McGregor, the UFC has delivered the next best possible lightweight match by revealing top-ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov and Orange County trained Tony Ferguson will fight March 4 at UFC 209 in Las Vegas.

“It’s happening,” UFC President Dana White said Thursday. “We haven’t received bout agreements from both guys, but they’ve both verbally agreed.”

Earlier this week, UFC announced the card will be headlined by a welterweight-title rematch between champion Tyron Woodley and top-ranked Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson. Woodley retained his belt in November by majority draw against Thompson at Madison Square Garden.


That same night, Russia’s Nurmagomedov improved to 24-0, affirming his No. 1 lightweight rating with a third-round submission of Michael Johnson. He and McGregor bickered during fight week, fueling talk they’d meet next.

But after McGregor won the lightweight belt with a second-round knockout of Eddie Alvarez in the UFC 205 main event, he announced he’d require a break to wait for the birth of his first child, due in May.

There has been internal speculation that McGregor won’t return to UFC action until September.

When he does, he’ll likely face the March 4 winner.

Second-ranked Ferguson (23-3) has won nine consecutive fights since a May 2012 loss to Johnson.

Three of the bouts have been granted “performance of the night” bonuses from the UFC and two others were “fight of the night,” including Ferguson’s Nov. 5 victory by unanimous decision over former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos.