UFC 249 might still feature a “really fun fight” between two of the top stars in the sport according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. The famed MMA journalist appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter to give an update on UFC 249, and he revealed the UFC’s current plan to match Tony Ferguson against Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 249 on April 18.
“It would be a really fun fight on paper,” Helwani said.
Ferguson and Gaethje ‘Two of the Most Exciting Fighters in the UFC’
According to Helwani, Ferguson vs. Gaethje would pit two of the “best fighters” in the company right now against each other in an important divisional battle. Ferguson is the No. 1 ranked contender to UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s throne while Gaethje is ranked No. 4 behind No. 2 Dustin Poirier and No. 3 Conor McGregor.
So Ferguson vs. Gaethje would be a really important fight in arguably the UFC’s best division.
“They are two of the most exciting fighters in the UFC,” Helwani said. “Like I said, (they are) two of the best fighters, not only in the company but in the lightweight division, which is the most stacked division in the company right now.”
Still, fans had long looked forward to finally seeing Nurmagomedov defend his title against Ferguson next month. The two top lightweights in the world had each won 12 straight UFC contests. Nurmagomedov is undefeated across all promotions and Ferguson hasn’t lost a fight in almost eight years.
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‘Feeling of a Letdown Right Now’
So no matter how good the potential main event battle between Ferguson vs. Gaethje might be on its own, Helwani suggests the overarching feeling that surrounds UFC 249 right now is that of being a letdown.
“But there’s a feeling of a letdown right now in the sport because everyone wanted to see that Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fight,” Helwani said. “They’ve tried to book it five times and it looks like the fifth time will fall through again.”
It doesn’t really matter how violent an affair Ferguson vs. Gaethje might turn out to be. There just isn’t yet a palpable feeling of excitement in the MMA community about it just yet.
“So people aren’t really getting excited right now about Gaethje vs. Ferguson even though it’s a good fight on paper because everyone was so looking forward to Khabib vs. Ferguson,” Helwani said.
How UFC 249 Hype Train Could Get Rolling Down the Tracks
That could change, of course, over the next few weeks.
The first step would be for the potential UFC 249 replacement fight to become official. It’s probably hard for fans to get hyped about a fight that they’re not even really that sure is actually going to happen.
The next step would be for the UFC to finally announce exactly where and how the company intends to host UFC 249 next month during this COVID-19 pandemic. The company hasn’t been super clear about why it suddenly believes it would now be able to find a location in the U.S. to host the fight.
Once those hurdles are cleared, the hype train would leave the station.
Because Ferguson and Gaethje are two of the most exciting fighters on the planet. Any fight between those athletes is an easy sell, and that sale would be made even easier by it being the only live sporting event happening right now.