A booked UFC fight between incumbent Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0) and No. 1 contender Tony Ferguson (25-3) is old hat at this point.
Unfortunately for fans of mixed martial arts, this pairing has been scheduled four previous times—without a single punch being thrown.
Late in the fall, the Ultimate Fighting Championship booked these two competitors for a fifth time as the main attraction of the Apr. 18 UFC 249 pay-per-view at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
At stake that spring evening: The UFC Lightweight championship.
Prior cancellations between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson—how they got here:
Dec. 11, 2015: The first scheduled contest between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was going to be contested as part of The Ultimate Fighter live finale on FS1, but the fight was postponed after the former withdrew from the event due to a rib injury.
Apr. 16, 2016: Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were then rebooked for the headliner of UFC on FOX 16 at Amalie Arena in Tampa, but the pairing was again called off. This time, Ferguson withdrew because of an injury.
Mar. 4, 2017: A third scheduled booking for Nurmagomedov and Ferguson was set as the UFC 209 co-main event—but on the day of the card’s official weigh-ins, it was announced as canceled due to Nurmagomedov’s hospitalization stemming from weight cut issues.
Apr. 7, 2018: (This is a long one) Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were set to headline UFC 223.
On Apr. 1, 2018—a mere six days before the card, Tony Ferguson withdrew due to a torn knee ligament, which Dana White announced in an online video that evening and said he wished it had been an April Fool’s Day prank.
In the aftermath of the withdrawal, Paul Felder, then unranked in the UFC’s Lightweight division, offered to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The New York State Athletic Commission refused to sanction the fight due to Felder’s unranked status.
Max Holloway was then scheduled to fight Nurmagomedov in the main event but wasn’t medically cleared to compete on the day of the weigh-ins.
Al Iaquinta took the fight on a day’s notice, with Nurmagomedov becoming the UFC Lightweight champion the next night.
So, with the fight now scheduled for a fifth time, this begs a question posed by Boyz II Men in their 1991 hit song Motownphilly:
“Could it really happen—or do dreams just fade away?”
Note: We will refrain from making a call on this fight at this time.
Heading into the Apr. 18 championship fight, challenger Tony Ferguson is the taller competitor, standing six feet even, two inches taller than champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s 5-foot-10 frame.
Both fighters have gone 5-0 in their last five fights.
Champion Nurmagomedov’s last win occurred during the Sept. 7 headliner of UFC 242 (third-round submission- rear-naked choke) vs. Dustin Poirier on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
In the other corner, challenger Ferguson’s last win came against Donald Cerrone (second-round TKO- doctor’s stoppage due to an eye injury) in UFC 238 back on June 8 on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
The Tale of the Tape:
Tapology shows that Tony Ferguson has a six-inch reach advantage (76 inches to 70 inches) heading into this fight.
In recent days, No. 4 contender Conor McGregor (21-4), who is slated to fight No. 5 contender Donald Cerrone (36-13, one no-contest in the Welterweight main event of UFC 246 on Saturday night, has volunteered to return to Lightweight competition if either Ferguson or Nurmagomedov can’t go in April.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson- UFC Lightweight Championship: Saturday, Apr. 18, Barclays Center, New York City (ESPN+ pay-per-view)
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