Former UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson and former WSOF Lightweight Champion Justin Gaethje will battle for the vacant UFC Interim Lightweight Title tonight in the main event of UFC 249.
UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was supposed to face Ferguson at UFC 249 before the coronavirus outbreak caused travel issues for the champion, but it is UFC President Dana White who accepts responsibility for Nurmagomedov missing the event.
“I’m sure you saw today, Khabib posted, ‘Hey, as soon as Ramadan is over, I’m ready to roll,’” White said to BT Sport (via Jed Meshew of MMA Fighting). “There was a lot of questioning Khabib, people were saying ‘Oh he got trapped in Russia’ or whatever; what he said is absolutely true. None of us saw coming what happened and how fast it was rapidly changing and the world was literally changing by the day. We all made some bad decisions that got him stuck in Moscow. It wasn’t just him, we all did. I take responsibility for that too. It happened, and you know what we get out of that? We get Gaethje versus Ferguson, which is gonna be absolutely ridiculous.”
Nurmagomedov could be back in action by July, which is something the fighter recently revealed on Instagram.
White knows that holding UFC 249 during a coronavirus is a risk, but White says the UFC is built for taking the risk.
“I would imagine that live sports are watching us right now saying, ‘Let’s see how this thing plays out for them and maybe we’ll take some risks,’” White said. “Nobody ever wants to take risks. Nobody really wants to be first. Nobody wants to assume the responsibility of being first. My team, my athletes, we’re built for this sh*t.”
UFC 249 takes place tonight from the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida with Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje headlining. Fightful is providing live coverage of the event, with a post-show podcast to follow.