The third time was not the charm for Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson in the UFC Lightweight division.
For that matter, neither were the fourth and fifth times.
By now, you already know the story of past bookings for a Khabib vs. Tony fight and the history of misfortune that has thwarted this pairing five times in succession.
In case you’ve just woken up from a coma, or if you just need a refresher course, here’s a look back at the scheduled pairings between the two:
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.
April 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.
March 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.
April 7, 2018: (This is a long one) Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were set to headline UFC 223.
On April 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.
April 18, 2020: Khabib Nurmagomedov was set to fight Tony Ferguson for the UFC Lightweight title at the original UFC 249 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY.
Due to a travel ban in Nurmagomedov’s home country of Russia necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic, he withdrew from the card.
Due to a stay-at-home order in New York, Barclays Center was unable to hold UFC 249 as originally scheduled and the card was canceled by UFC President Dana White upon executive orders from both ESPN and The Walt Disney Company.
Prior to UFC 249 being canceled entirely, the promotion intended to hold the show at the Tachi Palace Casino and Resort in Lemoore, CA on tribal land, thus avoiding regulation by the California State Athletic Commission, whose ban on combat sports runs through the end of this month.
A few weeks ago, UFC 249 was rescheduled to this Saturday, May 9 in Jacksonville, FL, with a UFC Interim Lightweight title fight between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje as the headliner.
When announcing the new UFC 249, White mentioned that the winner of the Ferguson vs. Gaethje bout would receive a guaranteed shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov.
On April 29, White took part in an AMA session on Reddit—and the question of the sixth pairing between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov came up.
Sadly for fans of the sport, White’s level of certainty that the fight happens later this year is low, saying:
“Not very. I’m afraid what will happen if we tried to make that fight happen again.”
This is a stark contrast to his earlier comments that a rebooked pairing between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov would happen in September.
So, it sounds, for the time being, at least, that Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson won’t happen this year.
When this fight does happen, it’ll be well worth the wait.
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