by Vito Basile
After weeks of an uphill battle with multiple state legislation due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, UFC President Dana White has seemingly found a way to make UFC 249 happen, although it’ll be without one of its original superstars, UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Khabib was set to take on Tony Ferguson in what was the fifth attempt at getting the two to square off.
Unfortunately, due to the recent pandemic, Khabib returned to his home country of Russia where he’s unable to leave the country due to President Putin’s border restrictions. White did everything he could to make sure this bout took place, but he determined that it was better to scratch Khabib altogether, replacing him with Lightweight contender Justin Gaethje.
Tony Ferguson wanted to make this bout happen, but when Khabib was forced out, Ferguson decided to accept the UFC’s offer to fight a very dangerous opponent in Gaethje, who could possibly end his nine fight win streak, making what could’ve been a great match-up against Khabib less attractive, since Ferguson is 35 years old. Ferguson v. Gaethje will be an Interim Lightweight Title bout, with the winner getting a shot at Khabib sometime in the fall, assuming states and countries will have fewer restrictions by then.
The Co-Main Event remains intact at this point, with #1 Women’s Strawweight Contender Jessica Andrade taking on #2 Rose Namajunas. A year ago, Andrade finished Namajunas by KO/TKO, due to a vicious slam where Namajunas landed on her head/neck. Both fighters look to once again put that gold around their waist as the winner will get a shot at Weili Zhang.
Another notable match-up on this card is Francis Ngannou v. Jarzinho Rozenstruik. This Heavyweight bout was set to be its own Main Event on March 28th, but it was cancelled because of restrictions put in place due to COVID-19. Ngannou (13-3), the #2 contender, looks to get his shot at champ Stipe Miocic, while undefeated Rozenstruik (10-0) looks to continue rising the heavyweight ranks after his recent impressive comeback KO victory over veteran Alistair Overeem.
UFC 249’s card is one that Dana White has been putting together behind the scenes while looking for a location for it. He’s said publicly that he’s purchasing an island — yes, an island — for these fights to take place, but he won’t give information on where this island is. Knowing him through the media over the years, if anyone can pull something off like this, it would be Dana White.
While as exciting as it is that we’re getting a UFC 249, fans will be less enthusiastic about it knowing that it won’t be free. In a time of crisis, $70 is a lot of money something deemed non-essential. In the past, instead of purchasing it, you had the option of going to a bar to watch, but that’s no longer available.
While I’m grateful Dana White is giving us a UFC 249, especially with no other sports available right now, I believe he’s taking away from this by forcing fans to pay for the PPV. It seemed like this would’ve been the perfect opportunity for the UFC to pull in non-UFC fans, as well as the casuals since they aren’t competing with any other sports.
UFC 249 will take place April 18th, and will be available for purchase on the ESPN+ PPV option.