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14th Mar 2020

Fifth time unlucky for Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson

Patrick McCarry

“Things change.”

On four previous occasions, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson have been slated to face off in The Octagon only for the fight to get cancelled. We were trying not to get our hopes up for UFC 249 but, still…

Last weekend, as a precursor for UFC 248 in Las Vegas, Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were front and centre at a press conference and they both vowed it would be fifth time lucky.

There was even a frisson of frustration and anger in the air as the lightweight champion took exception to Ferguson bringing his interim belt to the stare-down:

Credit: UFC (via YouTube)

Botched weight-cuts and injuries have combined, on four previous occasions, to scrub this fight. All was looking good, and both fighters insisted they were in prime shape, until world events encroached.

The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has, to date, swept into 120 countries, affected more than 140,000 people and caused over 5,000 deaths. In an effort to stem the spread, medical experts and government officials have advised that mass gatherings at sporting events are inadvisable.

Mixed Martial Arts is no different to the rest of the sporting world. UFC Brasilia is taking place, on Saturday, behind closed doors and the next two events on the promotions’s calendar have now been cancelled.

As of early on Saturday afternoon, the UFC was planning to move events scheduled for Columbus and Portland to the UFC’s Apex arena in Las Vegas and hold them as closed door events. Javier Mendez, who manages Nurmagomedov, spoke to MMA Fighting about ‘The Eagle’ possibly fighting in Vegas despite vowing to never have a bout there again (after the UFC 229 brawl and subsequent Nevada State Athletic Commission fine). He commented:

“I do know he’s very strong in his beliefs. I do know that he’s made the comment that he won’t fight there (until the NSAC apologises). Things change. This virus changes everything.”

Nurmagomedov himself stated that he was still training away with the April 18 pay-per-view title defence, in Brooklyn, at the forefront of his thoughts.

The UFC may well have been planning to shift UFC 249 to Las Vegas but, even if Nurmagomedov had changed his previous stance, that looks to be a futile scheme.

At a meeting today in Vegas, the commission voted to revoke licensing for all combat sports event in the state until March 25. That means the rejigged UFC Columbus and Portland events, at the APEX, are off the cards.

The NSAC will meet again on March 25 and it is expected that the next set of events – Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik (March 28), Overeem vs. Harris (April 11) – will be postponed. In all likelihood, barring a miracle shift, UFC 249 will go the same way.

John Morgan, of MMA Junkie, says the APEX option is not officially off the table but the March 25 meeting of the commission should see to that, especially if the Covid-19 situation significantly worsen in the United States.

Fifth time unlucky.