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Tony Ferguson claims UFC's interim lightweight belt, calls out Conor McGregor

Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times on

Published in MMA

LAS VEGAS -- According to someone familiar with Conor McGregor, the Irish UFC champion has wanted someone to establish himself as an obvious challenger.

Tony Ferguson obliged Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena, producing a well-planned triangle chokehold to submit No. 7-rated lightweight Kevin Lee in the third round of the UFC 216 main event.

"Where you at, McNuggets?" Ferguson (24-3) roared after claiming his 10th consecutive win and the interim lightweight belt created by McGregor's extended layoff from UFC action since November to await the birth of his son and then lose his boxing match to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Aug. 26.

Ferguson and Lee (16-3) engaged in an entertaining battle in which the 25-year-old Lee ended the first round atop Ferguson, pounding his head with punches.

But Ferguson, 33, relying on supreme conditioning enhanced during a rigorous training camp in Big Bear, Calif., overcame a cut under his left eye and landed clean kicks on Lee in the second.

In the third, Ferguson overcame a second Lee takedown in the round and started to hurt Lee by striking him with pointed elbows to the head while Ferguson was underneath Lee.

Then, Ferguson wrapped his legs around Lee's head and neck and squeezed, forcing Lee to tap out 4 minutes, 2 seconds into the round.

"This went exactly the way I wanted," Ferguson said. "I wanted him to use all that aggression and leave him with no energy for the submission. I just knew I had to ride out the storm. He was slippery (when applying the finishing squeeze) but I just used textbook (skill)."

Lee said he felt the effects of cutting 19 pounds in less than 24 hours before Friday's weigh-in, and from battling a staph infection without using antibiotics.

"A little too much to handle," Lee admitted.

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