Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – it’s business as usual for the UFC. The promotion will push ahead with their scheduled UFC 249 pay-per-view event on April 18th., with former interim lightweight champion, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson, headlining opposite surging contender, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje – with interim champion status the spoils. UFC president, Dana White revealed the pairing on his official Twitter account on Monday evening.
Former WSOF lightweight champion, Gaethje, will replace fellow Dominance MMA stablemate, undisputed lightweight champion, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov in the main event slot against Ferguson. Nurmagomedov revealed last week that he was stranded in Russia due to travel restrictions instated as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Ferguson – who has seen his clash with Khabib fall apart for a staggering fifth separate time, will make his sixteenth walk under the promotion’s banner, having won an incredible twelve fights on the trot. The Oxnard based all-rounder was preparing to compete for the undisputed lightweight title for the very first time, having only held the interim championship in the past, via a third-round triangle win over Kevin Lee back in 2017.
Punishing striker, Gaethje – will look to capitalise on the short-notice opportunity to face Ferguson, and could well earn his first promotional undisputed title tilt with a victory over the 10th. Planet Jiu-Jitsu black belt, Ferguson. Depending on the outcome of his clash with Ferguson, Gaethje may have put the definite kibosh on a potential meeting with former lightweight and featherweight champion, Conor McGregor this summer.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, tentative plans were in place for a potential lightweight title-eliminator between McGregor and Gaethje to take place sometime this summer. Gaethje has managed three consecutive knockout wins recently – stopping James Vick, Edson Barboza, and ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone last year. McGregor on the other hand, returned for the first time since his UFC 229 bad-blooded loss to Nurmagomedov, to knockout Cerrone inside forty-seconds at UFC 246 in a February in a 170-pound main event meeting.