MMA Ratings Podcast

May 8, 2020

UFC 249: Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje Is the Best Replacement Title Fight Fans Could Ever Ask For

By Adam Martin

For the fifth time in five tries, a fight between UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomdov and Tony Ferguson fell through. Injuries caused the fight to fall apart the first four times, but the fifth time can be solely blamed on the coronavirus pandemic. MMA fans everywhere were sad when the fight was canceled yet again, but you have to give the UFC credit here. Despite all of the uncertainty going on right now, the UFC was somehow able to lock up an incredible replacement fight between Ferguson and top contender Justin Gaethje, and the two will headline the revamped UFC 249 card.

There's no doubt that Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson was the fight that everyone wanted to see, and when the matchup was ripped apart yet again it's easy to see why the MMA fandom fell into a collective depression. But despite the coronavirus pandemic making umcertain, somehow the UFC was able to convince Gaethje to step up on short notice to take on Ferguson. The two will now battle it out for the interim title, and presumably a chance to unify the belt in a matchup with Nurmagomedov later this year. Considering the circumstances, this is about as good as it gets. The stakes are high, and for these two men, the risks are well worth the potential reward.

On paper, the matchup between Ferguson and Gaethje has the potential to be the best fight of 2020, and quite possibly one of the best lightweight title fights of all time. On paper, you cannot ask for a better replacement title fight. Both men are exciting every time they step into the Octagon, with both always in line to win a $50,000 bonus for "Fight of the Night" or "Performance of the Night." These are two men who truly put their lives on the line every time they step into the cage, constantly moving forward with reckless abandon looking to knock their opponents out. Lock these two men in the cage together and it has the potential to be an all-time classic.

With no other sporting events going on right now, Ferguson and Gaethje have the potential to help draw new fans to the sport. Extra eyeballs are going to be on this event, and given how they always put on amazing fights, these men are unlikely to disappoint. 15 years ago, Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar met at the TUF 1 Finale on Spike TV in a fight that helped make the sport famous. This Ferguson vs. Gaethje fight has the potential to be the Griffin vs. Bonnar fight of this generation. It should be an absolute war between two of the most exciting fighters in the sport, and considering the short notice, fans can't ask for a better fight.

Ferguson vs. Gaethje is a ridiculous fight on its own, but what makes this UFC 249 card so special is its depth. It might be the deepest card in UFC history. Just look at the undercard. The co-main event features UFC Bantamweight Champion Henry Cejudo taking on longtime divisional kingpin Dominick Cruz. That's a very intriguing fight. There's also a heavyweight bout between bangers Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik that was supposed to headline a Fight Night card in Columbus, but is now an undercard fight. The other two main card bouts -- Calvin Kattar vs. Jeremy Stephens and Greg Hardy vs. Yorgan De Castro -- should both also be very fun to watch.

But it's the prelims that make this event so extraordinary. There are a number of former UFC and Strikeforce champions on the preliminary card. The ESPN prelims feature a welterweight rematch between Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone, a heavyweight bout between grappling wizards Fabricio Werdum and Aleksei Oleinik, a middleweight bout between Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Uriah Hall, and a women's strawweight bout between Michelle Waterson and Carla Esparza. That's truly special. Considering most of these fights were booked on short notice, you have to give the UFC major credit.

UFC 249 this weekend, don't be sad that Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson isn't taking place. Don't be mad and think about "what if?" At a time like this, we should be grateful to just watch some live fights again, and we get to watch Ferguson fight Justin Gaethje in a true dream fight for MMA fans. This is an incredible card during an extraordinary time in human history. It's crazy that it's happening considering what's happening around the world, but it's happening. This is as real as it gets. Buckle up, UFC fans, because the most exciting sport in the world is finally back.

UFC 249
Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje (UFC Interim Lightweight Championship)

UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje (formerly UFC 249: Khabib vs. Ferguson) was scheduled to take place April 18, 2020 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Due to ongoing concerns regarding the coronavirus, the event was rescheduled for May 9, 2020 and relocated to VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.

Click HERE for more UFC 249 Pre-Fight Analysis

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