“The Eagle” and “El Cucuy” were booked to meet in the main event of UFC 249 on April 18 after four failed attempts between 2015 and 2018, and the Russian star found himself trapped in his home country due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
For “do Bronx” Oliveira, it’s yet another sign the 155-pounders won’t share the octagon.
“I think this Khabib fight with Tony Ferguson will never happen,” Oliveira told MMA Fighting. “Something always happens, someone gets hurt. This time was the coronavirus.”
Nurmagomedov, unbeaten in the sport with a stellar record of 28-0, will remain the UFC lightweight titleholder for now. Ferguson, who once held the interim championship, will attempt to improve his winning streak to 13 when he meets Justin Gaethje for another interim belt. This match headlines a UFC event that is tentatively scheduled for May 9 at a yet-undetermined location in the U.S.
Gaethje has beaten a lot of people in the lightweight division, Oliveira said, and deserves the shot at interim gold.
“Tony Ferguson is in a very good moment in his life, is beating everyone, and (he) has a unique style,” Oliveira said. “I think it would be a tough fight for Justin Gaethje now, because Tony Ferguson was training to fight the champion (and had) an opportunity to become the world champion. So he was definitely training like never before, and Justin Gaethje wasn’t training for a fight.”
Gaethje, a decorated wrestler who previously held the WSOF title before joining the UFC, is coming off vicious first-round knockouts over James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone in a 13-month span.
“Now that he has more time, he will get better prepared,” Oliveira said of Gaethje. “We know he has heavy hands, hits really hard, so anything can happen. But I still think Tony Ferguson wins.”
As for Oliveira’s short-term future, there isn’t much going on in terms of matchmaking, courtesy of the global health crisis. And the Brazilian still has to ink a new deal with the UFC before entering the eight-sided cage once again.
Even though “do Bronx” has a rematch with Cerrone on his radar after scoring an impressive third-round submission over Kevin Lee in March, he hopes to be granted an opportunity to face Conor McGregor upon his return.
“Looks like Dustin Poirier will fight that skinny guy, Dan Hooker, so the only ones left are Conor McGregor, Donald Cerrone and Paul Felder,” Oliveira said. “Since Cerrone was one of the last fights I lost, who knows. I’ve been asking for a fight with Conor McGregor for a while, but if it doesn’t happen, we’ll see.”