UFC News: Latest on Khabib vs. Gaethje Date, Jon Jones Future and More

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2020

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

As is usually the case, the question of who Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight next and when has been the center of discussion in the MMA world. 

With his fight against Tony Ferguson scheduled and canceled five times, Nurmagomedov's fight calendar has been at the center of attention before. This time the opponent is Justin Gaethje, and the search for a date that works for all parties appears to be a developing story. 

It's one of the biggest stories to come out of last Saturday's UFC 249, but the Fight Night event the UFC put on on Wednesday has generated some buzz of its own. It inspired Jon Jones to pick up his phone and take to Twitter to give some thoughts on what might be next for him. 

Unfortunately, it also showed what can be the ugly side of MMA. Anthony Smith took a ton of damage in his fifth-round TKO loss to Glover Teixeira that could have probably been over a lot sooner and has prominent figures in the MMA landscape weighing in. 

Here's a roundup of the latest. 


Khabib vs. Gaethje Targeted for September

Once Justin Gaethje battered Tony Ferguson in a fifth-round TKO win over the former interim champion, a matchup between The Highlight and undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov instantly became the new fight to make. Not just in the lightweight division but in the UFC right now. 

It could have been the excitement and buzz from Gaethje's dominant performance that had Dana White talking about making the fight happen on "Fight Island" in June or July. 

With some time to mull it over and other factors coming in to play, it now appears the targeted date will be closer to fall. 

"Because I talked to Khabib yesterday, and he said September. I'm ready to go in September," White said about the fight, per Farah Hannoun and John Morgan of MMAjunkie. 

One of the factors for Nurmagomedov is presumably the health of his father and trainer, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who has been in a "serious but stable" condition in Russia after complications following heart surgery, per RT.com

A summer date would have also been a quick turnaround from Ramadan for Nurmagomedov. The champion rarely fights close to Ramadan as he prefers to have time to resume training after spending the month fasting. 

A September date gives Gaethje time to fully recover from his high-paced fight with Ferguson and allow time for Nurmagomedov to be with his family now. 


Jon Jones Teases Move to Heavyweight

The notion of Jon Jones moving to heavyweight has been entertained by MMA fans for years. He's dominated the light heavyweight division so thoroughly throughout most of his career that him moving up to take on the big men of MMA is an intriguing idea. 

As one of his latest Tweets might suggest, he too is wondering how he'd fare at heavyweight. Specifically how he'd do against former title challenger Francis Ngannou.

The two exchanged words on social media and seem publicly open to a fight: 

Francis Ngannou @francis_ngannou

If you think you can handle my technique level that’s fine 🤷‍♂️ but I agree with you that you don’t have anything to prove in LHW division and that this should be for bags 💰💰💰💰💰💰💰 https://t.co/PtD04F3aSl

For once Jones actually has business to take care of in his native division. He won a narrow decision over Dominick Reyes in his last fight, and a rematch with The Devastator is close to the top of the list of biggest fights the organization could make. 

There's no denying, however, that a fight between Jones and the rising star of the heavyweight division would be bigger. 

Ngannou's hellish knockout power has crushed everyone he has fought except for the champion Stipe Miocic and Derrick Lewis in a bizarre performance. 

Since those two losses, Ngannou has knocked out four straight with only one of those opponents lasting longer than a minute. Ngannou added Jairzinho Rozenstruik to the list of victims in 20 seconds on Saturday night, thus making his stock even higher. 

The problem is that Stipe Miocic is supposed to fight Daniel Cormier a third time, and it has Ngannou in a bit of a holding pattern. 

A big-money fight against Jones would not only be an epic pay-per-view opportunity but something that could interest The Predator outside of a championship fight. 


Michael Bisping and Others Sound Off on Main Event Late Stoppage

The main event of Wednesday night's Fight Night card became difficult to watch in the championship rounds. Anthony Smith—who started strong before Glover Teixeira took over—is known for his toughness and living up to his Lionheart moniker, but he took an excessive amount of damage before Jason Herzog stepped in to stop the fight. 

Former UFC champion and current analyst Michael Bisping wasn't shy in criticizing both Herzog and Smith's corner for not bringing an end to the bout sooner. 

"I love Anthony Smith," Bisping said on the ESPN+ post-fight show (h/t Steven Marrocco of MMA Fighting). "He works with us. He's a part of the team. May the best man win, and that's how I truly felt. But watching it there tonight, I was like, ‘My word, stop this fight.' Either the corner and referee needs to do this. I love MMA, but we've got to catch up to boxing in regards to stopping the fight."

According to UFC Stats, Smith landed just one significant strike to Teixeira's 43, with 33 of those landing to the head. 

Rounds 4 and 5 didn't play out much better for Smith. He was outstruck by Teixeira 51-12 in those rounds before it mercifully came to an end. 

Ariel Helwani of ESPN reported the various injuries that Smith suffered in the bout. 

Ariel Helwani @arielhelwani

Just spoke to Anthony Smith via text. Injuries suffered tonight: Broken nose, broken orbital bone, two missing teeth and a cut under his right eye. One tooth in front and one towards the back, he said. His real teeth.

MMA referee is not an easy job. Dominick Cruz was recently displeased with the officiating in his UFC 249 bantamweight fight because he felt the fight was stopped too early. 

However, it's a lot easier to see stories where the fight could have gone on longer but the referee tries to protect the fighter by calling it earlier than the inverse. Someone taking as much damage as Smith did on Wednesday is not good for the fighter and isn't good for the sport.