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Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje Set for UFC 249 Fight Card After Khabib's Exit

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: Tony Ferguson interacts with media during the UFC 249 press conference at T-Mobile Arena on March 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Chris Unger/Getty Images

Tony Ferguson will fight Justin Gaethje on April 18 for the interim lightweight championship, UFC president Dana White confirmed on Monday: 

danawhite @danawhite

The fight is signed and is 100% ON LIVE on ESPN somewhere on EARTH!!!! 😃 @TonyFergusonXT vs @Justin_Gaethje is LIVE on @espn+ PPV April 18th for the interim lightweight belt! https://t.co/aH44zg5K30

The fight comes in the wake of White confirming that Khabib Nurmagomedov had dropped out of the fight. He had originally been scheduled to take on Ferguson.   

danawhite @danawhite

@arieIheIvani Absolutely NOT true!!! The card is happening but @TeamKhabib is out. I will announce the entire card tomorrow.

It is now the fifth time a potential fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov has been planned and canceled. 

On April 1, Nurmagomedov announced on Instagram that he would be stepping down from the proposed matchup to remain in quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. A day later, however, he opened the door for potentially participating in the fight, saying he needed a location and a way out of Russia, which has closed its borders because of the coronavirus. 

Brett Okamoto @bokamotoESPN

Khabib Nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) saying he never said he was out of 249, he just isn’t going to fly anywhere when he doesn’t know where he’s flying to. He also doesn’t believe getting out of Russia is as simple as others suggest. https://t.co/pf5RSiwemG

But with Nurmagomedov now officially out of the fight, Ferguson (25-3) will now focus his attention on Gaethje (21-2). Ferguson previously won the interim lightweight title after defeating Kevin Lee at UFC 216 in 2017, though he was stripped of the title after a knee injury prevented him from facing Nurmagomedov in 2018.

Gaethje, who is taking the fight on short notice, tweeted Monday: "I'm terrified and I f--ken love it."

Both fighters are riding winning streaks. Ferguson has won 12 straight, including wins over Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis and Lee in his last three fights, while Gaethje has won three in a row.

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