How COVID 19 impacts UFC 249 – Will Khabib/Tony happen?

By Tawny Cox

The saga between undefeated lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmogemdov and number one contender, Tony Ferguson continues. Their fight persists on taking unexpected turns interrupting all their previously scheduled bouts.

They were slated to face off on Saturday, April 18th at the Barclays Center in New York City, but yet again, for the fifth time, we find ourselves at another bump in the road. Now, the hidden enemy has invaded the entire globe and brought life as we know it to a stand-still.

MMA fans from around the world are all thinking the same thing right now… ARE YOU F*^&%^$* KIDDING ME?! Five years; that’s how long Dana White has been trying to make this fight happen and how long UFC fans have been anxiously waiting to watch. Is the fight truly this “not meant to be?”

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White’s persistence about this fight coming to fruition stems from its extensive rebooking history. The last time the pair were supposed to battle was the weekend of April 17, 2018, at UFC 223. On April 7, Ferguson tripped on set at a media obligation and tore his knee forcing him out of the fight.

Their third proposed bout was to take place on March 4, 2017, at UFC 209, but Khabib underwent an extremely brutal weight cut that brought him to the point of hospitalization.

The second scrapped bout was on April 16, 2016, at UFC on Fox 19. Ferguson attributed his withdrawal to lung issues.

Their original meeting was scheduled for December 11, 2015, but was shelved due to a rib injury on behalf of Khabib in October. They’re dead even at 2-2 withdraw rate.

The novel coronavirus has taken the world by a storm. It’s halted all sporting events and activities indefinitely, even postponing the 2020 Summer Olympics to 2021. The sport of MMA has been no exception.

While the UFC was able to continue with UFC Fight Night: Lee v. Oliviera in Brazil without an audience in attendance, the next three scheduled cards were scrapped. This has left UFC 249 in up in the air, and our oh-so-precious Khabib/Tony fight in serious jeopardy.

Dana White is adamant this fight happens. With New York banning all sporting events, it’s no longer plausible for the fight to be held there. Initially, White was pursuing moving all future bouts to the Apex in Las Vegas, but the Nevada State Athletic Commission followed New York and banned all combat sporting events until further notice.

On Wednesday, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto spoke with Dana on Instagram Live. White said his goal was to make UFC 249 the “baddest card that’s ever been done.” He mentioned adding Francis Ngannou v Jairzinho Rozenstruik to the lineup, along with other previously canceled bouts due to the corona pandemic.

When speaking to Yahoo Sports via Instagram Live on Monday, White expressed the fight will be a “closed event.” It will take place at an undisclosed location and will be inaccessible to fans. “The less the media knows the better. Let me put it to you this way: A lot of this hysteria has been driven by the media, the less the media knows the better off it is.”

He even joked about hosting the fight on the moon.


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