Dana White announced Monday afternoon that Tony Ferguson has signed on to fight Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 249, although the location of the fight has yet to be confirmed.
Ferguson was originally scheduled to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at the April 18 event, originally slated for the Barclays Center in New York, however the undefeated lightweight champion is currently in Dagestan, Russia and unable to leave the country due to various travel restrictions stemming from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
— danawhite (@danawhite) April 6, 2020
It’s unclear at this time how many other fights will take place on the card. According to a report from ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, White and the UFC have zeroed in on a location for the event somewhere on the west coast of the United States.
Ferguson (25-3) has won 12 fights in a row dating back to 2013, including wins over former champions Rafael dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis. The No. 1-ranked contender even won an interim title in 2017 when he submitted Kevin Lee at UFC 216 but was later stripped of his belt due to injury.
— UFC (@ufc) April 6, 2020
Meanwhile, Gaethje (21-2) is a former World Series of Fighting 155-pound champ who has won three consecutive fights by first-round knockout.
The new headliner features two of the most entertaining fighters on the UFC roster.
Ferguson has 10 post-fight performance bonuses in his 16-fight UFC career. Gaethje has already accumulated seven total bonuses despite only fighting six times in the UFC.
Nurmagomedov said during an Instagram live last week that he had been training in California before the UFC told him his fight with Ferguson would likely end up taking place in Abu Dhabi and not in the United States. Nurmagomedov explained he flew to the United Arab Emirates approximately one month out from the fight but due to UAE border closures Nurmagomedov wasn’t granted entry. Instead of flying back to the U.S., the undefeated champ flew home to Dagestan to continue training but once he was there Russia closed its borders. That’s when the UFC had to call an audible.
Nurmagomedov (28-0) remains at his home in quarantine. It marked the fifth time a scheduled matchup between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has been rescheduled, postponed or outright cancelled since 2015.
Ferguson said last week of Nurmagomedov: “The guy does not want to fight. He’s scared, he’s running. He should be stripped of his title.”
Nurmagomedov has not been stripped of his title despite a new interim belt being introduced.