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Did UFC make the right choice by going ahead with Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson at UFC 249? (Opinion)

  • UFC 249: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson might not be the right decision to make amid the global pandemic.
  • The hugely anticipated and much-awaited showdown between Khabib and Ferguson is set to go ahead in an empty arena.
Nickki Ciao
ANALYST
Feature
Modified 26 Mar 2020, 13:19 IST

UFC 249: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson
UFC 249: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson

Dana White seems pretty confident about making sure that the fight fans around the world will finally get to witness Khabib Nurmagomedov take on Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. The hugely anticipated and much-awaited showdown between Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and former interim Champion Tony Ferguson will take place inside closed doors, as confirmed by UFC President, Dana White. At a time when the world is fighting Coronavirus, with countries around the world on lockdown to contain the spread of the global pandemic, White looked confident of ensuring a safe and secure venue for both the fighters. However, the location remains undisclosed.

Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov

The pandemic has gripped the entire world and has caused irreparable damage to families around the world. Most of the sporting events are either cancelled or postponed for later dates, with Khabib and Ferguson finding a special consideration even at this difficult hour.

And rightfully so, the kind of pressure that UFC has gone through in ensuring the bout takes place can only be understood with the number of times the fight has fallen apart in the past. But it raises the question, how important is this match-up, and how viable is it for it to take place on the desired date at UFC 249 come April 18?


Can we wait a little longer for Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson?

Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib Nurmagomedov

Yes. UFC has already cancelled/postponed Fight Night 171, 172, and UFC on ESPN 8 scheduled for March and April in the leadup to UFC 249 slated to take place on April 18. Among the canceled bouts, involved a possible #1 contender match for Leon Edwards, who was set to take on former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley. 

Jairzinho Rozenstruik and Francis Ngannou in another possible #1 contender match for the UFC Heavyweight Championship also fell short after it was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. Cody Garbrandt might have to wait a couple more months before he can make his comeback.

So in a situation like this, why are Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson for the UFC lightweight championship deemed so important that Dana White looks hell-bent in making sure that the fight takes place at the scheduled time.


UFC 249: Four years in the making?

UFC 249
UFC 249
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Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov has fallen apart four times in the last four years. After overcoming Conor McGregor, Khabib snapped Dustin Poirier off his five-fight win streak. By doing so, he also registered his 12th straight victory inside the UFC octagon.

Nurmagomedov remains the undisputed and undefeated UFC lightweight champion of the world. On the other hand, Tony Ferguson overcame a career-threatening injury and put up an incredible performance against former champion Anthony Pettis. He is fresh off a victory against Donald Cerrone and maintains an equally impressive 12 fight win streak.  

On paper, it's a fight of a lifetime. Both Khabib and Ferguson have a very different style of fighting. Khabib is an elite grappler, who has dominated every opponent inside the octagon. However, Ferguson's submission skills and his wrestling credentials make him the toughest challenger Khabib has faced until now. 


Where does the problem lie?

Tony Ferguson Khabib Nurmagomedov
Tony Ferguson Khabib Nurmagomedov

Khabib Nurmagomedov has repeatedly hinted at early retirement. And if he is to be believed, we may not see Nurmagomedov fight inside the octagon a couple of years at best, from now. Another very significant factor is Ferguson's prime, which may not be a factor for El Cucuy, but it certainly puts an opinion among fight fans around the world. Tony Ferguson is 35, and could well be at his best right now. Another long delay can not only put the upcoming fight cards in jeopardy but can also have a significant impact on how the talented lightweight division goes forward.

Khabib Nurmagomedov

The question remains. Do we want to see Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson fight each other inside a small arena without any crowd? How ready and trained are both the fighters during this global pandemic, which requires social distancing to stay safe. Considering the stakes on this fight, shouldn't UFC look for a place filled with fight fans, to have a memorable farewell to the undefeated streak which will be snapped? Can UFC earn the kind of money it was initially looking at before bringing down the fight to an only PPV event? With no income out of the gate, can UFC recover a good profit from probably one of the biggest fighting spectacle of the decade? Or can UFC afford to postpone the fight by a couple more months? 

Published 26 Mar 2020, 13:19 IST
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