UFC president Dana White vowed UFC 249 would go on, and he made good on his promise, albeit with a new main event.
White told ESPN that Justin Gaethje would replace lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and face Tony Ferguson on April 18 at a location to determined for the interim UFC lightweight title. White said a site is forthcoming on Monday.
The Ferguson-Gaethje fight comes after many twists and turns that resulted in Nurmagomedov having to be replaced in the main event.
Nurmagomedov traveled home to his native Dagestan after believing the fight with Ferguson would take place in Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately for him, the Russian government banned travel out of the country because of the coronavirus pandemic. That left the UFC no choice but to remove Nurmagomedov from the fight. Once White received word Nurmagomedov was out, he began looking for a replacement and zeroed in on Gaethje.
This marks the fifth time that a scheduled fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has been called off.
In his quest to become a UFC champion for the first time, Gaethje comes in with a great deal of momentum, having won three consecutive fights by knockout, most recently a first-round finish of Donald Cerrone in September.
Ferguson enters UFC 249 on a fantastic run of his own by reeling off 12 straight wins, and he’ll be fighting for the first time since also beating Cerrone, by second-round stoppage at UFC 239 in June. He looks to capture the interim belt for the second time; he defeated Kevin Lee by third-round submission at UFC 216 in October 2017.