Justin Gaethje has been waiting for his crack at gold for a while. It could come at UFC 249 next month.
However, there’s a catch: at best, it would have to be for an interim title.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani was first to report Monday that Gaethje (21–2) could step in to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. That news comes as lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov revealed that he is stuck in Russia, at the mercy of a recently instated travel ban.
The UFC is now looking to Gaethje to fill in. No contract has been signed, however, and no location has been made available. Still, it could be the only hope to save the card. Whether there’s a point in saving it (at least in the short term) is another discussion.
Most sports have postponed their schedules in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The UFC has pushed back three events: UFC London, Columbus, and Portland. However, the MMA powerhouse is dead-set on keeping UFC 249 on the docket, with Dana White vowing that the event will happen.
Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been booked opposite one another four times in the past, with each fighter pulling out twice, generally for health reasons. The fight has long been one of the most anticipated bouts among MMA fans.
Gaethje has won his last three fights, stopping James Vick, Edson Barboza, and Cowboy Cerrone. All three finishes came within a round. Gaethje also boasts seven post-fight bonuses in six career UFC fights.