Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, UFC events have been taking place weekly – behind closed doors, of course – at the Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. And, the upcoming UFC 254, on October 24th, looks to be the best one yet.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje will go toe-to-toe in the headlining UFC Lightweight Championship unification bout, and it is tipped to be the fight of the year. The Highlight is considered to be one of The Eagles’ most dangerous opponents to date, but still the bookmakers have installed the unbeaten Russian, who is currently on a record-setting run of 28-0, as the heavy favourite in the Khabib vs Gaethje odds.
If the bookies are spot-on with their predicted winner, then President Dana White is keen to set-up a, much anticipated, bout between Khabib and Tony Ferguson. A fight between the pair has been called-off on five occasions already, with the most recent being earlier this year, when The Eagle was unable to leave his native country, due to travel restrictions enforced because of the coronavirus.
“If Khabib does beat Gaethje, you get Tony Ferguson another fight [against a different opponent], which we’re working on right now.” White told Sports Illustrated.
“And hopefully that fight with Khabib [and Ferguson] happens because I know people want to see it.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a fight fall apart as many times as those two.
“It almost scares me to make the fight again. What’s going to happen? An asteroid comes to earth? That’s the level of bad this thing is.”
The first fight between the pair was originally scheduled to take place on The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale card, in December 2015. However, just one month before the bout Khabib pulled out with an injury, and Edson Barboza stepped in to take on Ferguson instead, with the latter winning via submission in the second round.
In April 2016, Khabib and Ferguson were due to go toe-to-toe again, this time for a UFC on Fox event at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. This time, just 11 days prior to the event taking place, Ferguson dropped out – citing a lung issue as the problem. Khabib faced Darrell Horcer, instead, and won via TKO, in the second round.
UFC 209, in March 2017, marked the third occasion that the bout was called off. The Eagle and El Cucuy were due to co-headline the Las Vegas-based event, with the winner taking home the interim UFC Lightweight belt. However, Khabib fell ill on the day of the weigh-in, and was rushed to hospital, ending any hope of the fight taking place at the event. Ferguson didn’t fight at UFC 209, but did go on to win the Lightweight belt at UFC 216, later in 2017.
Fast forward to April 2018, and the pair were supposed to clash again, this time at UFC 223. However, Ferguson sustained an injury during a media event, which forced him out of the bout, a mere six days before it was due to take place. Max Holloway replaced El Cucuy, but, dramatically, he pulled out too, leaving Al laquinta as a last-minute replacement. Despite multiple opponent changes, and an attack from Conor McGregor, Khabib saw off the stand-in opponent to get his hands on the Lightweight belt.
We would love to finally see Khabib and Ferguson clash in the Octagon, but after five years – and as many failed attempts – we aren’t getting our hopes up just yet.