For the fifth time since 2015, the fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson is off.
Nurmagomedov himself announced on Wednesday that he will not be fighting due to the travel ban in Russia. The UFC lightweight king returned home last week due to the uncertainty of UFC 249 which is currently having a hard time looking for a venue to host the event. With Nurmagomedov stuck in Dagestan, the UFC is looking at Justin Gaethje as Tony Ferguson’s new opponent.
Khabib Leaves for Russia
It can be recalled that Nurmagomedov finished his training camp and returned to Russia with less than a month to go before UFC 249. According to him, they left the U.S. after the UFC told him that the fight was “100% not going to happen in the United States” and that it was 99% that it will be held in the United Arab Emirates. So he and his team flew to Abu Dhabi only to be told that the Emirates will soon be closing their borders and no one will be allowed to fly in and out except residents. This forced Khabib to return to Russia and unfortunately, the country also declared to close its borders by April 1, 2020, leaving Khabib “trapped” and the fight with Ferguson in jeopardy.
But there was still hope that Khabib could travel back to the United States after Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency confirmed that Nurmagomedov could travel outside Russia on a private jet.
“For Khabib to be allowed to fly to the US on a private jet, the flight company whose services he intends to use should obtain a permit for flying out of Russia and for arrival in the USA,” the Agency announced, via Sport Express.
“The companies which provide private air travel usually know which documents the passenger needs to have so that they will be granted entry on arrival at the border.”
Khabib Is Out
While we thought that the Russian government would be the savior of UFC 249, Nurmagomedov ended all speculation by insisting that he will not leave Russia to fight Ferguson elsewhere. In an Instagram post on April 1, 2020, the UFC lightweight champion announced that he is “out” of UFC 249.
In the statement, Nurmagomedov said:
“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.”
Timeline of Events Over the Years
With that, the Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson bout has been officially scrapped for a record fifth time since 2015. Yes, you got that correctly. This is the fifth time that this fight has been canceled. Here is a timeline of events for the Khabib vs Ferguson bout over the years:
August 21, 2015: The UFC confirms that top lightweight contenders Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will meet at the finale of TUF 22 on December 22, 2015.
October 30, 2015: Nurmagomedov pulls out of the bout due to a rib injury that he suffered while training. The Dagestani even said on Instagram that he is not sure if he will ever come back.
January 26, 2016: The UFC books Khabib vs Ferguson for the second time. The bout will be on April 16, 2016, in a UFC on Fox event which will be held in Tampa, Florida.
April 5, 2016: Ferguson announces that he is pulling out of the fight due to blood/fluids in his lungs. Ferguson said on Twitter that he “will be back.”
January 12, 2017: The UFC announces that it has booked Khabib vs Ferguson for the third time and despite UFC President Dana White saying a couple of months back that he will never book the fight again. This time around, it was supposed to be the co-main event of UFC 209 on March 4, 2017.
March 3, 2017: The fight is canceled after Khabib was hospitalized prior to the weigh-ins due to “weight management issues.” This is the closest to fight night that the two have been with only one day left before they were supposed to meet
January 27, 2018: UFC President Dana White announces that Khabib vs Ferguson will be the main event of UFC 223 on April 7, 2018, in Brooklyn.
April 1, 2018: The fight is off again after Tony Ferguson slips during a UFC 223 media event and he injures his lateral collateral ligament, requiring surgery.
November 25, 2019: Dana White says that the fight is on again and will be the main event of UFC 249 on April 18, 2020, at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
March 14, 2020: The UFC cancels its next three upcoming events due to the coronavirus pandemic. UFC 249 isn’t one of those events but with the global outbreak of the virus, the status of the event is questionable.
Show Will Go On
This is probably one of the most disappointing moments in UFC history. This was a fight everybody was looking forward to since 2015. It had been canceled four times before with each fighter causing the cancellation twice. The fifth time was supposed to be the charm and this time around, it looked like neither one of them was going to pull out. And then the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.
Ferguson is already 36 years old and if this fight will wait for another year, he will be 37 by then. Even if it happens, it’s not going to be the same fight as when he was in his prime. We can talk about that in one article. But there’s no use crying over spilled milk. The show must and will go on, at least that’s what Dana White is saying.
Now that Khabib is out, the rumors are saying that El Cucuy has been offered Justin Gaethje as his new opponent.
I don’t know what for sure Tony is thinking right now except asking for Khabib to be stripped of his title. But when you look everywhere, it’s going to be Ferguson vs Gaethje on April 18th, if the event is still on.
According to BetOnline as of 04/02/20, Ferguson is the betting favorite in this potential matchup. The betting site has El Cucuy as a slight -145 favorite over The Highlight who came back at +125 in a fight that hasn’t been finalized yet. But because Dana White insists it’s going to happen, let’s leave it a that.
How Will This Fight Play Out
Ferguson doesn’t seem to be thrilled about fighting Gaethje as he has been more concerned with throwing barbs at Khabib. But El Cucuy has fought just once since October 2018 and he would most likely want to get paid, assuming that UFC 249 is still going to push through.
Gaethje was rumored to be Conor McGregor’s next opponent, possibly for July 11th on International Fight Week. The former WSOF lightweight champion entered the UFC with an unbeaten record and a knack for delivering exciting bouts. He is 4-2 in the UFC with four knockouts although his two losses were also by KO.
If this fight is indeed going to happen, the big question here would be Gaethje’s shape. He’s turned down short notice fights before and since he was rumored to be fighting in the summer, he might not be in the best condition to fight Ferguson. If he is, then this will be a barn burner of a fight, perhaps more exciting than Khabib vs Tony.
There is no question that Ferguson is battle-ready. He’s been preparing even before the pandemic broke out. Right now, all the gyms in the United States are closed due to social distancing and that could be an issue, for Gaethje if he still needs to get in shape.
It’s hard to pick a winner here because while you will give the edge to Tony Ferguson because he is more prepared, he was preparing for a different opponent who had an extremely different fighting style. Justin Gaethje is a tornado and a wrecking ball who knows only one direction.
Ferguson is a cardio freak. He pushed the same pace for five rounds and never seems to get tired. He is a violent man whose fights are almost always bloody. El Cucuy is an exciting striker who can also finish the fight on the ground if needed.
Both men are tough fighters and these are the top two fighters when it comes to pain threshold. If you want to see a brutal, exciting, and bloody fight, this is it. Call this hyperbole but I think this is going to be a Fight of the Decade candidate.
I will give Ferguson my nod here because he is more prepared to fight. Again, I’m not sure what Gaethje’s weight is right now and I’m not sure if this fight will be at lightweight. But if the two agree to this brawl, it’s going to be a fantastic fight. I will pick Ferguson here because he is more ready and he is the more complete fighter between the two.
Prediction: Tony Ferguson