MMA analyst and ESPN’s Ariel Helwani has a theory that if UFC 249 is canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, Conor “Notorious” McGregor may fight Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov next. The Eagle is scheduled to defend his lightweight belt against Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson on April 18, but because of the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States, the event no longer has a venue.
But, UFC president Dana White has confirmed that the promotion has every intention to make sure the two men fight on that date, and they are considering all options. But, if the bout between the two top lightweights gets cancelled, the Irishman may earn the next shot.
During a recent podcast, Helwani said, “If you consider the amount of income lost, momentum lost, you’re going to want to come out with a bang. And so I think, if in fact Khabib and Ferguson don’t fight on April 18, who’s to say that the fights don’t return until September and at the point Rammadan is over, we don’t just put together Khabib and Conor. That fight does 2 million pay-per-views, and [the UFC] needs money right away.”
Helwani said that there’s a chance that Tony Ferguson could be lose out on his shot at The Eagle’s title if their UFC 249 bout is cancelled because of COVID-19. “I suspect that when things get back to normal, they’re going to try and put together the biggest fights possible,” he said.
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The UFC Has Likely Lost a Lot of Revenue Due to the Coronavirus
The UFC has already canceled three events which has likely lost them a lot of revenue. The promotion also hosted an event on March 14 in Brasilia, Brazil, without an audience. By hosting the event without ticket sales, the UFC took a monetary hit as well.
With the uncertainty around the coronavirus, many more UFC events may be canceled. If the promotion is looking to make as much revenue as possible when it returns, Conor McGregor vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov is a proven powerhouse. The first match at UFC 229 was the single highest purchased pay-per-view in the promotion’s history. Tapology has the UFC 249 PPV at 2.4 million sold.
From a rankings standpoint, having Khabib and El Cucuy fight is necessary to determine that top lightweight in the division. Both men are on a 12-fight winning streak in the UFC, and are touted as the top two lightweights of this generation.