Add Santiago Ponzinibbio to the list of fighters willing to step in on short notice and face Tony Ferguson in the main event of UFC 249 on April 18.
Lightweight contenders Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier have volunteered to face “El Cucuy” on days notice after 155-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov found himself stranded in Russia due to local travel restrictions, and the Argentine welterweight is willing to do it as well.
Ferguson is a former interim champion who beat a long list of notable fighters over the past eight years, racking up an impressive 12-fight winning streak inside the Octagon. Ponzinibbio hasn’t lost in almost five years, winning seven in a row at the 170-pound weight class against the likes of Neil Magny, Mike Perry and Gunnar Nelson.
“I think El Cucuy, Tony Ferguson, is one of the most entertaining fighters because he gives his all and I think we would do an epic fight, a great fight,” Ponzinibbio told MMA Fighting. “We both have this style, we give it all in our fights, [my fights] always have blood and a good striking battle.”
The American Top Team talent, who has said in the past he would be open to cutting extra 15 pounds to challenge and “finish” Nurmagomedov if offered the opportunity, hasn’t been training much since the coronavirus outbreak forced the gym to closed its doors in Florida.
Yet, he wouldn’t mind traveling amid a pandemic “for a good reason.”
“It would have to be a catchweight because I can’t make 155 in 18 days,” Ponzinibbio said. “I can do it with time and preparation because I’m a small guy for 170. I’m doing great in this division and wasn’t thinking about leaving, but for an opportunity like this, a super fight, I’d do it. I can’t make 155 in 18 days, but a 165-pound catchweight, I can do it. I have no doubt it would be an entertaining fight.”
UFC 249 is still on for April 18, but the location has yet to be announced by the promotion. The pay-per-view show was originally booked for Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but the local commission barred the card from happening in Brooklyn “out of an abundance of caution and in line with recent guidance issued by the Center for Disease Control and New York State, the New York State Athletic Commission.”
“It’s not my weight class, but with all this craziness going on and many guys not able to travel and me being here in America, I would do it,” Ponzinibbio said. “It would be a great fight for the fans and a great fight for me to come back. I’d do it.
“I’m running every day here and that’s good [enough] to beat up everybody there, brother.”