The last few months have been tumultuous for Dana White and the UFC. After cancelling three events in March due to COVID-19, White remained adamant that UFC 249 would take place as scheduled on April 18th. The UFC spent considerable time an effort to prove White true, changing locations, changing fights, implementing increased safety protocols on the fly, and generally scrambling to answer the constantly shifting problems that arise with attempting to hold a live sporting event during a global pandemic. In the end, though the event was postponed a few weeks. UFC 249 will in fact be taking place this weekend, but despite managing to keep UFC 249 alive, the event did suffer one major casualty: UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced off the card.
Nurmagomedov was supposed to defend his title against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, in one of the sport’s most highly anticipated fights ever. Instead, according to Khabib, a series of communication breakdowns resulted him being stranded in Russia, unable to fly out of the country due to coronavirus restrictions. Khabib’s withdrawal from UFC 249, has caused some backlash in the community, especially from his would-be opponent Tony Ferguson who claims that Nurmagomedov is “running” and should be stripped of his title. But Dana White disagrees. In fact, speaking with BT Sport on Thursday, the UFC President backed his champion and took responsibility for the situation.
“I’m sure you saw today, Khabib posted, ‘Hey, as soon as Ramadan is over, I’m ready to roll,’” White said. “There was a lot of questioning Khabib, people were saying ‘Oh he got trapped in Russia’ or whatever; what he said is absolutely true. None of us saw coming what happened and how fast it was rapidly changing and the world was literally changing by the day. We all made some bad decisions that got him stuck in Moscow. It wasn’t just him, we all did. I take responsibility for that too.
“It happened, and you know what we get out of that? We get Gaethje versus Ferguson, which is gonna be absolutely ridiculous.”
As far as consolation fights go, it’s tough to do better than Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje. The interim lightweight title fight will kick off an ambitious schedule for the UFC over the next month, who intends to hold two more events next week and then continue holding events on a regular cadence. If the UFC can pull it off, it will essentially make them the only game in town as the rest of the sports world has completely shut down during the global pandemic. And that is one of the reasons White says he was so adamant about getting back to the business of fighting, because he wants to be the one leading the way.
“I would imagine that live sports are watching us right now saying, ‘Let’s see how this thing plays out for them and maybe we’ll take some risks,’” White said. “Nobody ever wants to take risks. Nobody really wants to be first. Nobody wants to assume the responsibility of being first. My team, my athletes, we’re built for this sh*t.”
UFC 249 goes down on Saturday at the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. In the main event, Tony Ferguson will face Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title, with the winner to face undisputed champion Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year.
Puzzle. Justin Gaethje: ‘Puzzle’ of Khabib Nurmagomedov already written, Tony Ferguson harder to solve.
Testing. UFC aims to administer around 1,200 coronavirus tests for three shows in Jacksonville.
Good deeds. PFL teaming with New York City food bank to provide 25,000 meals for COVID-19 crisis aid.
Dangerous. Mike Tyson receives lucrative offer from BKFC to compete in bare-knuckle boxing.
A look back at Dominick Cruz’s beef with Team Alpha Male.
Every bantamweight champion in UFC history.
UFC 249 cold open.
Dillashaw picks Cruz.
I smell Oscar.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
I accept your challenge, Oscar de la Hoya.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) May 7, 2020
Dustin reacting to Conor’s rankings rant.
Because I've been fighting real contenders and you've been hand picking opponents. https://t.co/lKWNYachoa— The Diamond (@DustinPoirier) May 7, 2020
Bruce Buffer does not feel essential for an event without fans in attendance.
IT’S TIME TO FLY ✈️ TO JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA FOR #UFC 249 & THE 11 DAY ADVENTURE AHEAD For which I’m pumped up for along with announcing 2 other @UFC FIGHT NIGHTS on May 13th & 16th LET THE GAMES BEGIN #BUFFLIFE #UFC pic.twitter.com/JrQpnn1nhH— Bruce Buffer (@brucebuffer) May 7, 2020
We are so grateful for the support of New Mexico's own @ufc champion Jon Jones. @JonnyBones made a donation today that will provide 100,000 meals for families in northern New Mexico! #COVID19Response #FeedNNM #ManyThanks #NewMexicoTrue pic.twitter.com/yXV3H8DsUM— The Food Depot (@TheFoodDepot) May 7, 2020
Olympic gold medal homies.
UFC 249 is this Saturday. @HenryCejudo takes on @DominickCruz for the UFC Bantamweight Title. It’s going to be a great fight. #itstrue #mma #wrestling #ufc @danawhite @ufc @espn pic.twitter.com/cDSig2qTEe— Kurt Angle (@RealKurtAngle) May 7, 2020
Aljo is mad.
He’s just talking out his ass. He mentions my KO fluke loss from a little over 2 years ago, but doesn’t mention my body of work afterwards. But conveniently, he forgets about his whittle tummy-ache from that @MightyMouse knee he ate ♂️ #UFC249 https://t.co/UyD9Htu4wJ— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) May 7, 2020
In the words of Fat Amy - “Not a good enough reason to use the word penetrate.”
Shit! My turn to get penetrated on Monday when I get there. https://t.co/cR43SmIn1t— michael (@bisping) May 8, 2020
I promise on my worst day I could win a ufc title— Jarred Brooks (@The_monkeygod) May 8, 2020
Jussier Forgiga (23-7_ vs. Alex Perez (23-5); UFC 250, June 6.
It’s fight weekend! Been a long time since we could say that. Enjoy it y’all.
Thanks for reading, stay safe, and see y’all on Monday.
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