UFC Rumors: Latest on Ferguson vs. Gaethje and Potential Fights for UFC 249 Card

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 16, 2020

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: Tony Ferguson poses for photos 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

The latest attempt to put on UFC 249 has the promotion targeting May 9 as the date at a location to be named later, and it promises a loaded card featuring Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje in the headliner. 

The event was originally scheduled for Saturday but was postponed April 9 indefinitely along with all other events amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, a week after that announcement, the organization is once again attempting to get its event schedule up and running. Brett Okamoto of ESPN has reported UFC is looking at the new date to hold the card with an altered lineup of fights:

Brett Okamoto @bokamotoESPN

Here is the *targeted* card for May 9. Very fluid. Some have verbally agreed, others are hesitant and want more details. Fighters want to fight but these are crazy circumstances, obviously. But ... this is the card as of today, UFC is working on. https://t.co/7s7OfwXOW9

As Okamoto noted, the situation is still fluid. Some fighters have verbally agreed to these bouts while others are holding out for more information.

UFC President Dana White had Tachi Palace in California lined up as a location for Saturday's card. However, those plans were nixed by ESPN after governor Gavin Newsom reached out to Disney with concerns about the event being held in his state, per Kevin Draper and Oskar Garcia of the New York Times.

A location has yet to be named. However, as Okamoto noted in a separate tweet, it is notable that the WWE was recently deemed an "essential business" in Florida. The company continues to record its live shows with no audience and limited production crew. 

Putting aside the question of whether the organization should forge ahead with an event in the middle of a pandemic, the card, as constructed, would be one of the deepest in the sport's history. 

The prospective event could feature three title fights. The bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje was set to go down as an interim lightweight championship bout. Henry Cejudo would be defending his bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz, and Amanda Nunes would put her featherweight title on the line against Felicia Spencer. 

A heavyweight clash between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik was set to be the main event of a UFC on ESPN event in March before it was canceled. Okamoto also reported a bout between Calvin Kattar and Jeremy Stephens has been verbally agreed to "if the event happens."

The card may not be done growing. With multiple events canceled, the list of potential fights continues to grow, and White has hinted there could be more announced.

"It could get better," White said about the card, per Kevin Iole of Yahoo. "It really could. You look at that card, and it's stacked, but I have some fights I'm working on. If I get them done, this card is going to be absolutely crazy."

The original main event and perhaps the most highly anticipated fight that could be made right now is Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, which was canceled for the fifth time when Russia imposed a travel ban, taking the lightweight champion out of the original UFC 249 date. 

Now, Nurmagomedov is not likely to appear on a card anytime soon. A devout Muslim, he will be observing Ramadan for a month starting April 23 and is eyeing a September return to the Octagon, per MMA Fighting

Given the complications in trying to put on an event in the middle of all the uncertainty going on right now, this is a developing situation. 

Regardless of when the event happens, it would appear that fans are in for a loaded card whenever the UFC is able to return.


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