Dana White Announces Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje as New UFC 249 Main Event

Justin Gaethje UFC
Justin Gaethje, UFC Vancouver Ceremonial Weigh-In Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

Dana White has announced that a fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will now headline UFC 249 on April 18 at a location yet to be announced.

UFC President Dana White has announced that the new UFC 249 main event will feature Tony Ferguson against top contender Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight championship.  The news comes less than 24 hours after White responded to an account on social media saying he would have the complete line-up on Monday.

With a ban on large gatherings and travel restrictions around the world to combat the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), there has been much speculation about whether the event would even be able to go forward despite White maintaining that he would find a way to make the card happen.  Last week, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov had addressed his concerns over travel but did say he was still willing to fight if a location could be found for the April 18 fight date.  On Sunday night, however, White said in his tweet that the event would be moving forward without Nurmagomedov. Nurmagomedov was previously reported to be stuck in Russia due to a travel ban.

White did not give a location for UFC  249, though he did say several were still in play for the event that is now less than two weeks away.  ESPN’s Ariel Helwani has reported that a location on the west coast of the United States is being targeted as the most likely location for the event.

Tony Ferguson is currently on a twelve fight win-streak that included winning the interim lightweight championship once before back in 2017.  The bout with Nurmagomedov, now scheduled and cancelled for the fifth time, was the most anticipated bout of the 2020 calendar year after having been announced last November.  Ferguson previously spoke with ESPN to say that he would not accept another bout until he was given a location for the event.

Justin Gaethje has quickly become must-see television in three years with the UFC.  With Fight of the Year candidates in both 2017 and 2018, “The Highlight” turned the corner last year to stop a two-fight skid by recording three first round knockouts to put him in title contention.  Previously, Gaethje’s name had been discussed as a possible fight with Conor McGregor in July as he waited for the fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov to take place.

White has not announced the rest of the official UFC 249 fight card but it is expected to look drastically different due to travel and health concerns affecting the fighters’ ability to train and make it to the event.