The winner of the UFC 249 main event between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje on May 9 is expected to then face Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year, but UFC President Dana White isn’t betting the house on it happening.
Though he didn’t go into detail on the topic, White on a Wednesday Reddit AMA thread said that he was “not very” confident that a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson would happen in 2020.
“I’m afraid of what will happen next if we try to make that happen again,” he added, referring to the seemingly cursed match-up.
Nurmagomedov was slated to put his lightweight title on the line against Ferguson in the UFC 249 main event slated for April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y. When the coronavirus crisis began sweeping the globe, the New York State Athletic Commission quickly nixed any possibility of the event happening in its state.
White attempted to move the event to Native American Tribal Lands in California. With Nurmagomedov on lockdown in Russia, the California location necessitated a change in the main event to Ferguson vs. Gaethje for the interim lightweight championship. Though White was prepared to host the revamped event on Tribal Lands, he was asked by broadcast partner ESPN and its parent company Disney to stand down, and he did.
The revamped UFC 249 fight card is still moving forward, but it will now take place on May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla., with no audience in attendance.
The Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson bout on April 18 represented the fifth time the bout had been scheduled. It now also represents the fifth time it has fallen apart. Previous derailments have come because of injury or weight cutting issues. This latest cancellation comes because of worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
It’s understandable that even White may now believe the bout to be cursed.
Current plans, however, call for the winner of Ferguson vs. Gaethje to be crowned the interim lightweight champion and penciled in to unify the belt with that of Nurmagomedov sometime in September or October.