Ahead of his UFC 219 bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov, lightweight contender Edson Barboza has labelled Tony Ferguson, and not Conor McGregor, the "actual" champion at 155 pounds.
Barboza will take on Nurmagomedov on 30 December in a contest that will essentially determine who will face either interim champion Ferguson next or the winner of a potential title unification fight.
The Brazilian, who is on a three-fight win streak and currently ranked fourth in the lightweight rankings, is confident that he will deliver against the unbeaten Dagestan native and be on course for UFC gold.
"You can expect the best Edson Barboza that has ever stepped into the Octagon," Barboza told Combate via BloodyElbow.
"I'm training a lot. I know my time is now. I'm ready to be an UFC champion, you'll see."
Barboza also believes Ferguson is the real champion in the division rather than McGregor. Having lost to "El Cucuy" in 2015, the 31-year-old is hoping a win over the number two-ranked Nurmagomedov will set up a meeting with Ferguson.
With the increasing likelihood that McGregor will choose not to face Ferguson, the interim champion is in a scenario where he may end up defending his own belt.
"I'm number three [updated to four following UFC 218] in the rankings and I see Tony Ferguson as the actual champion," Barboza said.
"I always make this very clear. It doesn't matter whether or not Conor McGregor comes back.
"I don't know if he is coming back or not and I don't care. All I hope for is that whoever wins my fight with Khabib, becomes the next one to fight Ferguson for the belt."
It is not the first time Barboza has labelled the Irishman a fake champion as back in April, he claimed that him, Ferguson and Khabib have more credentials considering their experience at lightweight.
"I think McGregor is not the real champ," Barboza stated. "He has the belt, but I have almost 20 fights in this division.
"Ferguson has more than 10 fights in this division. Khabib [Nurmagomedov] has almost 10 fights in this division. And I think the next champ is going to be the fight for the interim belt."
Meanwhile, Ferguson is still campaigning for a title unification fight with McGregor. Having recently undergone a minor surgery, the 33-year-old wants to face the "Notorious" in March or April of 2018.