Whether or not UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov could have made it out of Russia in time for UFC 249 just became a moot point. UFC president Dana White has made the news official, that the fight card will go ahead without the Dagestani title holder. Instead, an interim lightweight title fight will headline the upcoming PPV offering.
Top-ranked Justin Gaethje (21-2) will step in for Nurmagomedov to take on the man who was supposed to challenge for the ‘Eagle’’s belt—‘El Cucuy’ Tony Ferguson (25-3). Ferguson and Gaethje will fight for an interim lightweight title at UFC 249, in a location yet to be announced.
Gaethje is coming off a win over ‘Cowboy’ Donald Cerrone back in September of last year, in Vancouver, BC. The win marked three-straight for the ‘Highlight’ after dropping back-to-back fights against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier.
For Ferguson, this marks the fifth time now that a potential bout against Nurmagomedov has ended up cancelled, and the third time that the two were supposed to meet with a piece of the lightweight championship on the line. If Ferguson walks away the winner against Gaethje in two-weeks’ time it’ll be the second time he’s claimed interim gold off a missed chance to fight Khabib. Ferguson is currently riding one of the UFC’s longest active win streaks, with twelve straight victories, stretching back to his 2012 defeat to Michael Johnson.
Stay tuned to Bloody Elbow for more news and details as the rest of the UFC 249 bout order is expected to be announced in the coming days.