There may be plenty of people around the UFC who believe Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will finally enter the Octagon to face each other in the near future. Dana White is not among them.
The UFC president hosted a Reddit AMA on Wednesday evening and took a wide range of questions from mixed martial arts fans. Many of them wanted to know about a potential rescheduling of the original UFC 249 main event. White didn't have any reassuring responses.
When one user asked what White believes is the "fight that got away?", the promoter didn't mince words: "It's gotta be Tony [vs.] Khabib."
Another fan asked White how confident he is that Nurmagomedov and Ferguson would fight at some point this year.
"Not very," White replied. "I'm afraid of what will happen next if we try to make that happen again."
There's good reason for that sort of pessimism. Each time Nurmagomedov and Ferguson schedule a bout against each other, for one reason or another, it never ends up happening.
In the finale of The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 in 2015, Nurmagomedov was forced to pull out with a rib injury. In 2016, a lung issue forced Ferguson to cancel. After being named the co-main event of UFC 209 in 2017, Nurmagomedov is hospitalized ahead of weigh-ins.
The were ready to finally link up as the main event of UFC 223 in 2018 until Ferguson was forced to undergo surgery on his knee. Which brings the duo to UFC 249. An event that had no foreseeable road blocks until it had every conceivable one because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Even once White found a venue willing to host the event, Nurmagomedov was unable to leave Russia.
Now it seems the two may not get another chance to reschedule. After five attempts to make the fight happen, Khabib vs. Ferguson may end up an all-time UFC what-if.
As for a fight far more likely to happen in the near future, former interim welterweight champion Colby Covington is looking to set up either a title rematch with Kamaru Usman or a bout with Tyron Woodley.
Covington told Farah Hannoun at MMA Junkie he would prefer a rematch with Usman but is prepared to change course:
"If I don't get that fight then the only other fight that would make sense for me is to end Tyron Woodley's career. You see him out there broke as (expletive) begging to fight someone, now he's over on Cameo but you can't believe anything Woodley says. He's like 'Oh, I'm going to fight three times in three weeks.' Bro, you're a broke (expletive), you didn't even fight three times in four years so I think the UFC knows where I stand.
"I want to make the biggest fights happen for the fans, but I'm going to stand firm. I want my rematch, I deserve my rematch. Everybody knows who won that night and give me a level playing field and a competent ref, and that's a completely different outcome next time."
The California native was dropped by Usman via technical knockout at UFC 245 in December. He's not fought since but appears ready to return to the Octagon.