March 31, 2018

UFC 223: Please MMA Gods, Don't Cancel Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson Again

By Adam Martin

One of the best possible matchups that can be made in mixed martial arts is scheduled to go down next Saturday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York in the main event of UFC 223. That's when UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Tony Ferguson looks to win the official belt when he takes on the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov in what could be the fight of the year. But just because the fight is scheduled doesn't mean it will take place.

This is actually the fourth time Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson has been booked, with the MMA Gods for whatever reason interfering with the bout three times in the past. The first time this fight was due to take place was back at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale in December 2015. But Nurmagomedov pulled out with an injury and Ferguson ended up fighting Edson Barboza instead, choking him out with a D'arce. Strike one. The next matchup between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson was set for UFC on FOX 19 in April 2016. This time, though, Ferguson pulled out with a lung injury and Ferguson instead fought an overmatched Darrell Horcher, winning the fight via TKO. Strike two.

In the meantime, while Conor McGregor was running the lightweight division, Ferguson fought and defeated Rafael dos Anjos and Nurmagomedov smashed Michael Johnson, making it inevitable they would be booked again. The third time Nurmagomedov was set to fight Ferguson was at UFC 209 in March 2017. This time it was Nurmagomedov who pulled out again, as he fell ill from a bad weight cut and the fight was cancelled the day before fight night. Strike three. It was a huge blow to the UFC, who ended up doing a disappointing PPV number for a show built on Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson 2. Everyone was excited for Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, and when the MMA Gods pulled it at the last second, the mixed martial arts world was collectively bummed out.

Nurmagomedov needed to take some serious time off after the bad weight cut, siting out almost all of 2017, and Ferguson was instead booked to fight Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title, which he won at UFC 216 via triangle choke submission. By the UFC giving Lee the title shot, Nurmagomedov was somewhat punished for his weight miss and instead fought Barboza just a month later at UFC 217. In his return to the Octagon, Nurmagomedov put on the best performance of his career with a dominant three-round decision win. That set up this fourth fight with Ferguson, and here we are just a week out from the fight hoping the MMA Gods don't interfere again this time.

We just need to see this fight. It's such an incredible matchup and it would be a shame if it was cancelled again. Nurmagomedov is 25-0 in his undefeated MMA career, including a perfect 9-0 mark in the UFC. His wrestling game is second to none in the lightweight division and to this date no one has been able to stop him. Ferguson, meanwhile, won The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 and is 13-1 in the UFC, including his current 10-fight win streak. A well-rounded mixed martial artist, Ferguson is known for his incredible guard as well as an unorthodox striking style. Stylistically this is just an amazing fight and absolutely has the potential to be a classic. Let's all cross our fingers and hope this time it happens. Please MMA Gods, don't cancel Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson again. The MMA world deserves this fight, so let's all pray that it happens this time.

UFC 223: Khabib vs. Iaquinta (formerly UFC 223: Ferguson vs. Khabib, UFC 223: Khabib vs. Holloway) takes place April 7, 2018 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

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