Why Nate Diaz and Michael Johnson didn't replace Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209
No UFC interim lightweight champion will be crowned this weekend.
The match-up between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson fell through for the third time on Friday after the Dagestani was hospitalised before weighing in.
After failing to show up before the early weigh-in deadline passed, UFC officials announced that Nurmagomedov was removed from the card. However, with Ferguson making weight successfully, the scramble to find a very short notice replacement began.
Nate Diaz, Michael Johnson, Lando Vannata, Eddie Alvarez and even former flyweight title challenger John Dodson were all names that kept cropping up, but UFC president Dana White officially confirmed that 'El Cucuy' would not be fighting on Saturday night.
Dana White says there won't be a replacement https://t.co/lnztASPu7w
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) March 3, 2017
Johnson appeared to be leading the race to land the co-main event slot. The Menace was in Las Vegas at the time and his history with Ferguson made the fight an easy sell.
Ferguson is riding an impressive nine-fight win-streak in the UFC's most-populated division. His last lost came back in 2012 against Johnson. He dropped a unanimous decision to the power puncher in the three-rounder, but has won every single contest since.
Johnson reached out to the UFC and Ferguson to confirm his interest in the rematch, but later tweeted that Ferguson had declined the offer.
I was ready and willing!! To make that title weight for last minute. Unfortunately @TonyFergusonXT declined it. Catch ya around next time!
— Michael Johnson (@Menace155) March 3, 2017
To Ferguson's credit, he explained his reasoning for turning down the fight, and it's hard to blame him.
Not only would he have been forced to take a pay cut, but there would have also been no belt on the line. Not to mention the fact that he had been in camp for Nurmagomedov, a completely different fighter, and Johnson has that knockout power to catch anyone on his day.
Respect For Your Willingness To Step In. @Ufc Told Me It Wasn't For The Title And It Was For Less Pay. Willing To Fight You For Right Price https://t.co/cSGspjZUei
— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) March 3, 2017
Diaz was a bit of a long shot, although there were rumblings that he was being called upon to save yet another card.
The Stockton native famously stepped in to replace the injured Rafael dos Anjos to face Conor McGregor at UFC 196, then shocked the world by out-striking 'the Notorious' on the feet and submitting him in the second round.
Alas, this time around, it appeared as though Diaz was just too heavy to fight Ferguson.
Sources told me that Nate Diaz was considered as a late replacement to fight Tony Ferguson but he was too heavy. #UFC209
— Damon Martin (@DamonMartin) March 3, 2017
We imagine his purse demands were a bit on the heavy side too.