Organising a lightweight pairing of current undisputed champion, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov, and former interim gold-holder, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson has proven both tiresome, and ultimately, fruitless. For an astonishing fifth separate time, the matchup was shelved in April. It’s regarded as one of the most cursed, yet important matches in the history of mixed-martial-arts – according to promotion president, Dana White, a pairing he’s “not very” confident we see in 2020.
The two were slated to serve as the headlining bout for the first instalment of UFC 249 on April 18th. – until Khabib was forced from the contest, after travel restrictions imposed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, prevented his reentry to the United States from his native, Dagestan. In his place, we’ve got fellow Ali Abdelaziz stablemate, Justin Gaethje. The surging contender is now pencilled in to clash with the aforementioned Ferguson on May 9th. in Jacksonville, Florida – with interim spoils up for grabs.
For the winner, they’re almost guaranteed a unification bout in their next outing – however, White isn’t so sure we’ll see Khabib vs. Ferguson, if the Oxnard native wins, and in the process, makes history as the first two-time interim titleholder in promotional antiquity.
Speaking during an “ask me anything” session on Reddit, White was asked about the prospect of pairing Khabib and Ferguson for a staggering sixth separate occasion before the end of the year, to which he replied.
“Not very,” White told. “I’m afraid of what will happen next if we try to make that happen again.”
While undefeated sambo specialist, Khabib observes the Muslim practice of Ramadan, he’s explained he targets a return to active competition in September, while White further told how he expects the 31-year-old to feature in either September or October.
Khabib and Ferguson’s history goes all the way back to December of 2015. The pair of lightweight standouts were expected to feature at The Ultimate Fighter 15 finale until the Dagestani was forced to withdraw due to injury. The clash was rescheduled to take place at UFC Fight Night Tampa the following April, until this time, a lung issue forced Ferguson from the tie.
The two were then pitted with championship honours at stake for the first time, with an interim championship introduced at UFC 209 in March of 2017. A botched weight cut from Khabib shelved the match on that occasion. In April of 2018, Ferguson was expected to meet Khabib in the headlining bout of UFC 223 in Brooklyn, with the bout scheduled to birth the division’s new undisputed titleholder after then-champion, Conor McGregor had been stripped of the crown due to inactivity. On April 1st., Dana White revealed how Ferguson, while carrying out media obligations, tripped on a monitor cable – resulting in a complete tear of his fibular collateral ligament (FCL).