MMA fans are growing increasingly fearful that Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fight with Tony Ferguson will be cancelled for a fifth time due to coronavirus fears. The fierce rivals are due to lock horns at UFC 2019 in Brooklyn on April 19.
However, the sporting world has been hit by a raft of event cancellations as authorities scramble to contain the rampant coronavirus, and UFC fans fear Khabib vs Ferguson could be the next casualty.
A History of Disappointment
A wise scholar once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Nurmagomedov and Ferguson may start to feel that this fight between them is never going to happen, and that it is crazy to even try.
The first bout was supposed to take place at The Ultimate Fighter 22 finale in December 2019, but a rib injury forced Nurmagomedov to withdraw. El Cucuy tangled with Edson Barboza instead, and won with a second-round submission.
The fight was rearranged for April 2016, and this time it was Ferguson’s turn to pull out due to blood in his lungs. Nurmagomedov decimated Darrell Horcher instead, and Ferguson returned with a thrilling victory over Lando Vannata two months later.
The eagerly anticipated fight was then scheduled for March 2017, but there were complications during Nurmagomedov’s weight cut and the fight was abandoned for a third time. Ferguson then tripped and tore knee ligaments when Conor McGregor attacked a bus carrying Nurmagomedov and various other UFC fighters, forcing the bout to be called off for a fourth time in April 2018.
A National Emergency
MMA fans were looking forward to the long overdue bout finally taking place next month, but they may now fear that it is simply doomed. The Trump administration has declared a national emergency to help authorities contain the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has banned gatherings of more than 500 people across New York. UFC 249 was due to attract thousands of screaming fans to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, so that was another blow to anyone hoping the fight will still go ahead.
March Madness has been scrapped, the NBA season is suspended indefinitely and so is the NHL and MLS, while the start of the MLB season has been delayed and the Masters golf has been called off too. It mirrors a trend that has been seen across the world, with major soccer, tennis, golf, cricket and rugby events scrapped.
However, there is a glimmer of hope for fight fans.
The Show Must Go On
UFC president Dana White has continued to defy the advice of medical experts, and he remains adamant that the promotion will maintain its event schedule. It staged a full fight card in an empty arena in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, on Saturday night. There were 12 bouts in total, including Charles Oliveira’s third round stoppage victory over Kevin Lee.
Cage Warriors 113 is slated to go ahead behind closed doors in Manchester (it was originally slated for London) on Friday night. The event has retained the majority of its bouts, including three world title fights. Some exciting fights were moved from the UFC London card, which was forced to relocate amid the Covid-19 outbreak, and the bout between Wales’ John Phillips and Serbia’s Dusko Todorovic is among those that will go ahead.
If White and his team can move heaven and earth to keep those sort of fights going, there is every reason to think they will try even harder to put Nurmagomedov and Ferguson in the Octagon together on April 18.
It is the biggest fight of the year by a long distance. Nurmagomedov is the pound for pound king of the UFC scene, with a flawless 28-0 record. Ferguson is potentially a top 10 pound for pound fighter, with 18 wins in his last 19 bouts and an overall 25-3 record. Nurmagomedov is the clear favourite in the fixed odds betting, but Ferguson has toppled many famous fighters in the past.
The Need For Home Entertainment
Nurmagomedov insists he is maintaining his usual training regime in anticipation of the fight with Ferguson. “UFC always finds a way,” said his manager, Ali Abdelaziz. “With or without fans this fight is going down people at home need entertainment.”
He is keen for the fight to go ahead following a fiery press conference earlier this month, which saw the Russian kick Ferguson’s belt off the stage. Ferguson is equally keen for the chance to finally end Nurmagomedov’s long winning streak and cement his own status as an MMA legend.
It may have to be moved from New York, but the UFC Apex complex in Las Vegas has been touted as an alternative venue. Fans will only believe the showdown is going ahead when they actually see the two men facing one another in the Octagon, but the promotion will do everything in its power to ensure that it goes ahead.