UFC 249 appears to be in jeopardy after lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomdov revealed being stuck in Russia on Monday after that country’s travel ban went into effect due to the coronavirus outbreak. Replacement candidates for Nurmagomedov’s spot at UFC 249 have quickly emerged, and it appears the UFC is doing everything in its power to salvage its upcoming pay-per-view event on Apr. 18.
Tony Ferguson still plans on fighting in the main event of UFC 249, and some of the replacements that could make their way onto the card now include lightweight contender Justin Gaethje, welterweight “BMF” champ Jorge Masvidal and several others.
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UFC 249: Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje?
According to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Ferguson has been offered Justin Gaethje as an opponent for UFC 249. Ferguson vs. Gaethje would pit two of the top 155-pound fighters in the world today against each other. Both are aggressive, fan-friendly fighters who almost always seem to participate in action-packed classics.
Per that same report, UFC officials believe they’ll somehow be able to figure out a way to stage UFC 249 in the U.S. now though it would require the company using U.S.-based fighters on the card only.
Gaethje has long been rumored to be the top candidate for Conor McGregor’s next opponent, but it’s not clear after the pandemic outbreak how or where McGregor could even fight in the coming months due to the global travel restrictions in place across the globe.
Still, Ferguson-Gaethje would be a solid matchup between two high-profile athletes.
UFC 249: Tony Ferguson vs. Dustin Poirer?
According to MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin, another high-profile American lightweight would also be willing to step into the UFC 249 main event spot seemingly left vacant by Nurmagomedov, and that fighter is Dustin Poirier.
The former interim lightweight champ is coming off a submission loss to Nurmagomedov at UFC 242 last year but said he’d be happy to take on Ferguson at UFC 249. Per that same report, Poirier has already pitched the idea to UFC officials and is waiting to hear back from them about the company’s plans.
UFC 249: Tony Ferguson vs. Jorge Masvidal?
UFC “BMF” champion Jorge Masvidal took to social media to offer his services for UFC 249.
Masvidal is currently ranked No. 3 in the UFC’s 170-pound welterweight division and was thought to be on his way to facing UFC welterweight champ Kamaru Usman next.
However, Masvidal also revealed in recent weeks that’d he’d be willing to face lightweight champion Nurmagomedov for the right sum of money, so it’s possible Masvidal would be willing to do the same against Ferguson.
Still, Masvidal is a full-fledged welterweight. While Ferguson vs. Masvidal would surely be a violent spectacle, it seems unlikely the two would face each other at UFC 249 because both are on their way to getting title shots in their own divisions.
UFC 249: Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal?
Masvidal later implied on social media that he and Usman could fight on Apr. 18 at UFC 249.
That said, it could also be interpreted that Usman vs. Masvidal is no longer happening. In fact, Masvidal seemed super miffed that Usman, or perhaps someone on the champion’s team, didn’t accept a proposed date.
Per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, the UFC did consider moving Usman vs. Masvidal to UFC 249. However, Helwani’s sources also said that the fight “is not looking likely at the moment”.
UFC 249: Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik?
Per ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik is another fight UFC officials have discussed adding to UFC 249. The two heavyweight contenders Ngannou and Rozenstruik were originally supposed to square off on UFC on ESPN 8 set for Mar. 28 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Ngannou is ranked No. 2 in the division while Rozenstruik is ranked No. 6.
However, that card was postponed by the UFC along with two other events after the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Ngannou vs. Rozenstruik would be a nice addition to UFC 249 should the card take place, it certainly wouldn’t be something that could replace Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson as the main event.