Dana White: Tony Ferguson 'the guy' to face Khabib Nurmagomedov next

UFC president Dana White reaffirmed his belief that Tony Ferguson should be next in line to compete for a lightweight belt against champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.

"Of course Tony deserves it," White told MMAJunkie in Melbourne, Australia, ahead of UFC 234. "He's the No. 1 contender. He's the guy. That's the fight."

Ferguson has won 11 consecutive bouts, most recently a bloody TKO win against Anthony Pettis in October that was ESPN's Fight of the Year. Nurmagomedov, coming off a dominant victory against Conor McGregor on the same UFC 229 card, has not lost in 27 professional fights.

After his win against McGregor, Nurmagomedov jumped out of the Octagon and into the crowd. He received a nine-month suspension and $500,000 fine from the Nevada Athletic Commission for his actions. It can be reduced to six months if he participates in a local anti-bullying campaign.

Nurmagomedov's agent, Ali Abdelaziz, told ESPN that the champion plans to return in November at Madison Square Garden at a yet-to-be-announced event.

"I hear these things, but Khabib hasn't told me that," White said. "... I haven't heard it from Khabib. When we talk, we'll figure it out and see what happens."

If the wait is that long, White said he might be open to having an interim belt in the division.

Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been set to face each other on four separate occasions, and all four times the fight has fallen through. Nurmagomedov pulled out of their matchup in 2015 because of a rib injury; Ferguson had a lung issue in 2016; Nurmagomedov had an illness due to a failed weight cut in 2017; and last year Ferguson suffered a knee injury one week prior to their UFC 219 fight.