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Ultimate Fighter winners stick together.

Michael Chiesa, a contender in the lightweight division and a former winner of TUF, believes Tony Ferguson – not Khabib Nurmagomedov – is the true champion at 155 pounds.

Nurmagomedov won the belt with a victory over Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 after an injury knocked Ferguson out. Ferguson, also a former winner of TUF, was the interim champion heading into the bout.

“First and foremost, all three guys are elite, world class fighters. Let’s get that out there right away before I answer,” said Chiesa during a recent interview on Submission Radio. “All three guys are world class, all three guys are elite, top of the heap for sure. But in my eyes, Tony Ferguson’s the champion. I mean, his win streak has a lot of prestigious names to it. You know, he beat Kevin (Lee), he beat Rafael dos Anjos, he beat Edson Barboza, he’s got that long laundry list of guys in his win streak.

“So, I look at Tony as the champion. But, you know, I’m not taking anything away from Khabib. He’s got, what, 25-0, 26-0 record all together? So, his win streak’s insane, but I look at Tony as the champion. Now, if Tony and Khabib fight, who knows how that fight goes, but just in my eyes I think that Tony’s the champion.”

Chiesa was scheduled to meet Anthony Pettis that same night, but injuries sustained in the melee inside the Barclays Center involving Conor McGregor forced him out. He’ll now take on Pettis at UFC 226.

“Well, first and foremost, I didn’t attend the event, I didn’t actually go to the fights, I watched them from my hotel room. But it was devastating, man. I trained really hard,” he said. “This was my first time I’ve done a full training camp in Las Vegas, first time I did a full training camp at the UFC Performance Institute. You know, my dad was born in Brooklyn and he’s not with us now, so fighting in Brooklyn had some deep meaning to me and I was very proud that I’d get the opportunity to fight where my dad was born.

“So, it was definitely tough, it was a hard pill to swallow, and you know, it still hasn’t digested yet. I should be on to new blood right now, but I’m having to stay focused on Anthony. It hasn’t been hard, he’s a really tough competitor, but I really was very well prepared for that fight. I mean, it’s a bummer that I didn’t get to go out and show the world on April 7th the product that I was going to bring to the octagon, but you know, you gotta look at it as the glass is half full, you know what I mean? I’m getting the opportunity to fight in Vegas, same guy.

“It gives me another training camp to be here at the PI and improve myself as a fighter, as a human being, you know what I mean? So, I can’t look at the negatives, I gotta focus on the positives, and ultimately everything is gonna work itself out.”