UFC 249: The Show Mustn’t Always Go On

Dana White
Dana White Credit: Rodney James Edgar/Cageside Press

It’s time to cancel the ever-changing UFC 249 card.

It’s the show that was supposed to have the elusive Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov Lightweight Championship bout as its main event. Yet once again, Khabib vs. Tony has fallen through.

If the mass lockdown amid coronavirus concerns isn’t enough to force Dana White into pulling the plug on UFC 249, then what is? What’s the line that if crossed, means the cancellation of the event?

Khabib Nurmagomedov is stranded in Dagestan. Khabib insists his bosses over at the UFC told him that the fight would take place in Abu Dhabi, but after borders around him began to close, ‘The Eagle’ was forced to fly home.

The UFC has now begun the search for a replacement in the champion’s absence. Wednesday, the UFC champion reiterated that he is stuck in Russia — and officially off the card.

Interestingly enough, WWE found itself in a similar situation last week when they went to tape WrestleMania 36 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the pro wrestling promotion’s main events — Roman Reigns vs. Bill Goldberg — was scrapped after an incident occurred backstage prior to the match being taped. Reigns, it should be noted, is a cancer survivor, in other words, potentially immunocompromised.

Although the WrestleMania main event has been changed and the Braun Strowman vs. Bill Goldberg match has already been taped, WWE isn’t acknowledging the real-life events that transpired, at least publicly, and is still advertising that Reigns vs. Goldberg is set to go on without an audience.

Reports from Dave Meltzer indicate a wrestler may have competed while displaying flu-like symptoms and Roman Reigns, with a compromised immune system from lengthy battles with Leukemia, had pulled out of his scheduled match after physically appearing at the TV taping. Not even marquee match-ups in an empty stadium without a crowd are safe.

The UFC’s approach to this event isn’t much different. In fact, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson is still being advertised on the UFC’s website and Dana White continued to insist the bout would take place and hasn’t yet stated otherwise.

It’s not that Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov can’t happen, it just can’t happen at the scheduled date at the scheduled time; it can’t happen right now. Even the UFC has acknowledged as much by trying to find a suitable replacement to fight Tony Ferguson.

UFC 249: Justin Gaethje A Potential Option to Step in Against Tony Ferguson

Justin Gaethje’s name has been thrown around as have different fights altogether, such as any combination of Tyron Woodley, Jorge Masvidal, and Colby Covington stepping up to save the April 18th date for UFC 249. It’s all possible, but not probable nor advised.

UFC 250 is also still scheduled to take place in Sao Paolo Brazil.

The reality is it’s time to close shop — at least for the foreseeable future.

Even if an event were to take place without a hitch and fighters safely make weight and make it to fight day in this dangerous climate, should a hospital even waste its resources on several preventable visits after the fact? Will the fighters even be in peak condition when their gyms are closed? Is travel safe enough for fighters to get to the arena for UFC 249? Where the hell will UFC 249 even take place? What will the main event be? Why aren’t we postponing this event?

At this point, we’re left with many more questions than answers. All the more reason to admit that the show mustn’t always go on.