UFC 249 was initially scheduled to feature a UFC lightweight title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson on April 18 in Brooklyn, New York.
Undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov was set to make his 3rd title defence against Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson at UFC 249. The pair had been booked to fight 4 times in the past, with the bout falling through each time, with both fighters pulling out twice due to different health reasons.
This has lead to some fans and media labeling this highly anticipated fight as being “cursed”. Nurmagomedov currently holds the longest active undefeated winning streak in MMA and Ferguson is widely considered to be the best lightweight fighter in the world. He also holds the record for most consecutive wins in the UFC lightweight division, with 12 victories.
It’s not rocket science to understand how highly anticipated this fight between the 2 lightweight fighters is, especially since it was booked for the 5th time.
Unfortunately for fight fans everywhere, the currently ongoing worldwide COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has once again derailed this fight from happening.
UFC 249 was initially booked for Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York. All large events with more than 500 people in attendance were banned in the state of New York around 1 month prior to the event.
Fight fans were eager to know what contingency plan the UFC had in place and whether the highly anticipated bout featuring Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was still going to go ahead.
UFC president Dana White continuously assured the fans that the event will go ahead on April 18 as planned, albeit it would be moved to a new location.
There was a lot of speculation about a potential new location for UFC 249, with Dana White saying that he has “four or five” different locations for the event.
Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov speculated that he believes UFC 249 would be relocated to Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
With no location having been confirmed by the company, Nurmagomedov decided to leave the United States and return to his home country of Dagestan in Russia. Then, the fight once again was put in jeopardy after Russia announced newly imposed travel restrictions in response to growing concerns over the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Fight fans everywhere were obviously disappointed by this new development. There appeared to be a glimmer of hope of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson still happening on April 18 after Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency issued the following statement:
“In order for Khabib to be able to fly to the United States in a private jet, the company whose services he intends to use must obtain permission to fly from Russia and to arrive in the United States. There are no restrictions for business aviation on departure from Russia.”
Unfortunately for some fight fans, the lightweight champion chose to self-isolate in Russia until the pandemic is under control. Nurmagomedov issued this statement on his Instagram, appearing to withdraw from the bout against Ferguson at UFC 249:
“Staying home in quarantine and reading the reaction of people to the situation around my fight, it turns out that the whole world should be in quarantine, governments of all countries, famous people around the world urge people to follow all safety requirements in order to limit the spread of the disease, to save people, and Khabib is the only one relieved of all obligations and must demonstrate free will and train flying around the world, for the sake of fight? – I understand everything and I’m definitely upset more than you to cancel the fight, probably like all others, I had many plans after the fight, but I can’t control it all.
The greatest countries and the largest companies of our time are shocked by what is happening, every day the situation changes unpredictably. But Khabib still has to fight, is that what you saying? – Take care of yourself and put yourself in my shoes.” Nurmagomedov wrote.
Khabib Nurmagomedov was criticized for his decision to withdraw from the bout by fans and fellow fighters. His rival Conor McGregor said that the Dagestani fighter “chickened out” from the fight.
The Dagestani fighter later stated that he would be open to competing at UFC 249, if a location was given and the promotion were able to get him there, but did not see it happening.
With the main event now being cancelled, fight fans were left wondering whether Tony Ferguson would accept a replacement fight or sit out and wait for the fight against Nurmagomedov to be rescheduled at a later date.
Ferguson said that the UFC still had not confirmed a location for UFC 249 at that time and that he would only be willing to accept a fight against Nurmagomedov or Conor McGregor.
Other potential replacement opponents for Ferguson were UFC lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, who said he would “beat up” Ferguson if they fought at UFC 249.
New developments regarding the status of UFC 249 were reported by TMZ Sports earlier this week. The report revealed that UFC president Dana White has managed to secure a “secret location” on a private island, with the official plans being announced later this week.
It was later announced that Tony Ferguson would, indeed, remain on the UFC 249 card and face Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje in the main event for an interim UFC lightweight title. White announced that the winner of this fight will fight Khabib Nurmagomedov for the undisputed UFC lightweight title.
Dana White also revealed that the UFC will be conducting medical tests for the COVID-19 coronavirus on all of the fighters and production staff. According to White, health and safety is the highest priority right now for the promotion.
“You get Gaethje versus Tony,” White said. “It’s the fight that makes sense. It’s two of the top guys in the world. Khabib is out, so the winner (of Gaethje vs. Ferguson) will face Khabib next.”
Dana White had previously stated the if Khabib Nurmagomedov was able to successfully defend his title against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, he would face Conor McGregor next.
He also explained the situation with Nurmagomedov withdrawing from the bout and defended the lightweight champion, saying that it was “nobody’s fault”:
“I could go on for 10 minutes telling you how that whole thing fell apart, but the reality is that’s nobody’s fault” White said.
“Every day when I got up, the rules changed. Every day. Things were shutting down, things were closing down. Many people thought this would be impossible for us to pull off. I’m always of the mindset that nothing is impossible, we’ll get this figured out, when there’s a will there’s a way. He got caught up in Russia, it was a total mishap. We all made mistakes in that one and nobody is to blame for that. It is what it is. The fact that we can even pull off an event right now – this is the hardest thing we’ve ever done.”
UFC lightweight contender Justin Gaethje recently talked to TMZ Sports about his upcoming fight against Tony Ferguson, saying he is both, excited and terrified about fighting him at UFC 249.
“I’m facing my fears right now and I think that’s what we all need to do.” Gaethje said.
Justin Gaethje is currently ranked No. 4 in the UFC lightweight division. He is known for his fan-friendly style, as he rarely looks for takedowns and prefers to utilize his aggressive stand-up fighting style. Gaethje has won a bonus in all 6 of his UFC fights and is currently riding a 3-fight winning streak with victories over James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone. His current UFC record is 4-2 (21-2 MMA), with his last 3 wins all coming by the way of knockout in the very 1st round.
Meanwhile, Tony Ferguson will enter the fight on a 12-fight winning streak with his last loss being against Michael Johnson via unanimous decision at UFC on Fox 3 in May of 2012.
Ferguson is the former interim UFC lightweight champion and has a UFC record of 15-1 (25-3 MMA) and holds notable victories over fighters like Joe Schilling, Danny Castillo, Abel Trujillo, Gleison Tibau, Josh Thomson, Edson Barboza, Lando Vannata, Rafael dos Anjos, Kevin Lee, Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone among others.
He recently shared a promo video for his upcoming bout against Gaethje, which features some of the thoughts he has on the whole situation surrounding UFC 249. In the promo video, Ferguson vows to give Gaethje “a highlight of his own”:
“I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish man. I just know when we talk about the fight, people keep smiling,” Ferguson said. “No matter who they put in front of me, like I said in The Ultimate Fighter, this is a tournament. I’m gonna go in there and do my job as best as I can.”
“Khabib was gonna get his ass kicked, but he’s no longer in the picture as far as I’m concerned. We got Justin Gaethje,” he added. “They call him The Highlight? I’m gonna give him a highlight of his own. I’m gonna hit him so hard, that dude is gonna see stars.”
“I ain’t got no message for Khabib or Conor. As far as I’m concerned, both those dues are retired. They just need to put it down and walk away. That’s what I told them to do a long time ago. This is a real man sport, man. These guys are a bunch of pu**ies.”
The location and venue for UFC 249 still remains to be officially announced at this time. UFC president Dana White has stated that it will be officially announced this week.
In a recent report from the New York Times, UFC 249 will take place at the Tachi Palace Casino Resort on Tribal Land in California. According to UFC president Dana White, he plans to host several UFC events there in the future:
“This place where this fight is going to be on April 18 I have locked up for two months, so I’m going to continue to pump fights out,” White said.
In a statement by the California Athletic Commission (CAC), they revealed that the commission would not participate in UFC 249, regardless of the event location:
“The commission echoes the guidance of California Governor Gavin Newsom, the Department of Public Health, local health officials, and the recommendations of the Association of Ringside Physicians regarding the cancellation of events where people may be at risk of contracting COVID-19 and encourages the industry to do the same. The commission will not participate in the UFC event on April 18, regardless of the event location.”
This article first appeared on CLOSEDGUARDMEDIA.com on 7th April, 2020.