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Tony Ferguson, who takes on Kevin Lee at UFC 216, is no fan of Conor McGregor

Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in MMA

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then it's clear what Tony Ferguson is doing to contrast the riches Conor McGregor has achieved this year.

"I look at character. I can see right through people," Costa Mesa's Ferguson -- wearing a simple black hoodie and jeans to a meeting with reporters -- said recently after closing an intense training camp in Big Bear. "I'm not fake. My outfit probably cost less than $100."

On Saturday night at Las Vegas' T-Mobile Arena, Ferguson (23-3) puts his nine-fight UFC winning streak on the line when he meets Kevin Lee (16-2) in the UFC 216 main-event bout for the organization's interim lightweight title.

Lee put a scare into Ferguson and the UFC by nearly missing weight Friday. He weighed 156 pounds -- one pound over the limit -- at the UFC's 11 a.m. deadline. But Nevada Athletic Commission rules allow a fighter to shed as much as two pounds with a one-hour extension, and a stressed Lee returned nude behind a towel to weigh 154.5 pounds.

The fight's interim tag is there because Ireland's charismatic McGregor hasn't been in the octagon since winning the 155-pound belt in November.

McGregor took an extended break to await the birth of his son, then lost by 10th-round technical knockout to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in an Aug. 26 novelty boxing match. The fight drew about 4 million pay-per-view buys and likely put $100 million in McGregor's pocket after he promoted the bout wearing designer suits and a mink coat.

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In a recent interview, McGregor said fighting the Ferguson-Lee winner next might be his best option as Nate Diaz perhaps is pricing himself out of a trilogy fight against McGregor.

"Somewhere along the line, righteousness and virtue has gotten skipped," Ferguson said, knocking the UFC for yielding to its No. 1 breadwinner's wishes. "... Good for (McGregor). He has a lot of likes, a lot of followers. I might not be as marketable as Conor. I don't care. I make my money winning and I'm here to remind everybody."

Ferguson has also been sidelined since November after Russia's No. 1 lightweight contender, Khabib Nurmagomedov (24-0), fell ill trying to make weight for their March fight. Nurmagomedov could be ready to fight the Ferguson-Lee winner in late December, the fighter's manager told The Times on Friday.

Seventh-ranked Lee, a strong wrestler riding a five-fight win streak, is seen by the UFC as such a formidable test that it kept the fight as the main event even after the scrapped September flyweight title fight between champion Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg was shifted to Saturday's card.

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