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'They took my belt, took a bunch of zeroes from my f****** pay cheque': Ferguson's rant at McGregor, Nurmagomedov and the UFC

Tony Ferguson criticised the UFC and both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor in an extraordinary, expletive-laden press conference ahead of his return from a serious knee injury.

Ferguson was set to challenge Nurmagomedov for the vacant UFC lightweight title in April but tore his lateral collateral ligament just a week before the event, which left him needing surgery.

He was stripped of his interim champion status as Nurmagomedov defeated late replacement Al Iaquinta to become top dog in the 155lb division.

The 34-year-old, who takes on Anthony Pettis at UFC 229 this weekend at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, remains embittered by the decision.

His opening gambit to the assembled media: "I'm just here because I have to be here," was an apparent reference to NFL player Marshawn Lynch, whose repeated "I'm just here so I won't get fined" comment in the run-up to the 2015 Super Bowl garnered much attention.

From there, though, Ferguson cut loose as he said at the UFC Performance Institute: "It's been five months since my injury, it took a long f****** time for me to be here.

"They took my belt, took a bunch of zeroes from my f****** pay cheque, how do you think I f****** feel?

"I'm the f****** champ. I didn't lose my belt, they took it from me. The one thing they didn't take was my smile so after my surgery I made a conscious decision to not want anybody else's help that wouldn't want to help me.

Tony Ferguson speaks to media at the UFC Performance Institute ahead of UFC 229 in Las Vegas. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

"Yeah, I've got a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, it's still there, it weighs a lot, but during this whole entire process I gained a whole lot more than you guys will ever imagine.

"It took one physical therapist to give me a condescending handshake and I put it in my head to say 'f*** that dude'. Because they were telling me six months to a year (on the sidelines) and I said 'you know what, I'm going to do it in four'. I quit drinking and changed my life around."

Ferguson is competing at an event headlined by Nurmagomedov making the first defence of his crown against McGregor, who is also on the comeback trail after a near two-year hiatus from the UFC.

The American took aim at the only two people ranked higher than him in the lightweight division and hopes neither emerges triumphant this weekend.

Asked for his prediction, he replied: "Double knockout. I hope these b***** knock each other out. They talk enough s***, I hope they deal with what they've got to deal with and squash this s***.

"This is a man's sport and we're trying to clean this s*** up but you've got these two knuckleheads going out there and making an a** of themselves."

If there is a late withdrawal, Ferguson, whose 10-fight winning streak is the best in the history of the UFC's lightweight category, revealed he is expected to step in as a substitute.

"It's in my contract," he added. "I'm always ready. You don't have to ask that question."

Digital Desk