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Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Tony Ferguson – that was the fight everyone wanted to see. The fight was scheduled, canceled, and rescheduled at such a rate that it was genuinely considered cursed. Injuries, weight issues, and a media power cable, and a global pandemic were all causes of cancellation, with the fight ultimately being canceled a total of five times. You can read all about it in our coverage of the most cursed fight in MMA history.
Khabib and Tony were the last set to headline UFC 249 in April. COVID-19 had other plans. The fight was once again taken away from us. As the UFC started to get back on schedule despite the pandemic, the undisputed champion was in lockdown in Russia and unable to travel for competition. This set up a bout between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title. A great matchup on paper, with both fighters known for their exciting fighting styles, Gaethje would not only beat Ferguson, but he would also finish him by TKO – snapping Ferguson’s legendary 12-fight winning streak. Khabib vs Tony was officially off the table.
But that’s not a bad thing. Justin Gaethje is as savage, ruthless, aggressive, and talented as Tony Ferguson and his victory of “El Cucuy” opened a lot of eyes to the possibility that Khabib versus Gaethje may be the best fight that no one really knew that they wanted. It has all the fixings to be a Fight of the Night/Fight of the Year/Fight of the Century contender.
|UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs Gaethje Information
|UFC 254: Nurmagomedov vs Gaethje
|Saturday, October 24, Time undisclosed
|How to Watch
|Pay-per-view, UFC Fight Pass, Watch on ESPN+ here!
|Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0)
|Justin Gaethje (22-2)
|5 ft. 10 in.
|5 ft. 11 in.
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov is a machine. Undefeated as a professional fighter, he holds a record of 28 wins with zero defeats. Known predominantly for his wrestling and ground control, Khabib can beat you anywhere, as he has eight knockout victories, ten submission wins, and ten decision victories. He joined the UFC in 2012 and defeated notable opponents such as Rafael dos Anjos, Michael Johnson, and Edson Barboza on his way to championship gold. He did win his title in rather lackluster fashion as Al Iaquinta (ranked as number-10 at the time) had to step in on one day’s notice to replace Max Holloway who was already replacing Tony Ferguson. Khabib would win a unanimous decision over Iaquinta, earning him the vacant undisputed lightweight championship.
In what would become the biggest fight in UFC history, Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his lightweight title for the first time against the man who was stripped of it: Conor McGregor. In the main event of UFC 229 on October 6, 2018, Khabib would submit the former champion in the fourth round and would then leap out of the cage to tussle with those in the corner of McGregor – leading to the now infamous post-fight melee. Both fighters were fined and suspended and the fight did little to end the rivalry.
During the champion’s suspension, the UFC would introduce an interim title that top-contender Dustin Poirier and featherweight champ Max Holloway would battle for. Poirier was a veteran of the sport and was on a huge winning streak while Holloway was the featherweight champion at the time and was looking to move up in weight to win his second title. He was riding a 13-fight winning streak at the time. Poirier would put on the performance of his life, out-boxing the champ and winning a unanimous decision over Holloway.
In what was Khabib’s most recent fight, he took on Poirier at UFC 242 last September to unify the belts. Despite a guillotine attempt by Poirier that looked dangerous, Khabib mostly handled his opponent and would submit him via rear-naked choke – marking his second title defense and performance of the night bonus.
During the global pandemic, Khabib was unable to travel and unfortunately suffered the loss of his father, who was also his coach, as well. Many didn’t know when, or if, he would fight again. But now we know. “The Eagle” is back on October 24.
Justin Gaethje entered the UFC in 2017 as the undefeated 17-0 WSOF lightweight champion. He made his debut against lightweight contender Michael Johnson (who was coming off of a loss to Khabib) and stopped him via TKO in the second round.
His success would be derailed, however, as Gaethje’s next fight was against former lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez. In what was a total slugfest, the Fight of the Night ended when Alvarez landed a knee in the third round that finally took out Gaethje. He would follow that appearance with another Fight of the Night fight against Dustin Poirier, who would also, ultimately, knock out Gaethje. They were the first two losses of his career but he made one thing well known: Justin Gaethje comes to fight. In fact, Gaethje has more post-fight bonuses than he has fought in the UFC – five FOTN and four POTN bonuses in seven fights.
Following his back-to-back losses, Gaethje would set the lightweight division ablaze with excitement. He started his run to the title with a first-round knockout win over James Vick. Next was another first-round KO, this time against Edson Barboza. This was followed by a first-round TKO of Donald Cerrone. Three fights in a row all finished in the first round. It was time for his first chance at UFC gold against one of the most dangerous fighters in the game: Tony Ferguson.
As mentioned earlier, this fight came to be due to the fact that Khabib was unable to leave his home country during the early days of the global pandemic. But the UFC had to keep the division moving and thus set up an interim title bout against the top-two contenders in Gaethje and Ferguson. The fight headlined UFC 249 in Florida this past May. It was impossible for this not to be the Fight of the Night. On top of winning that honor, Gaethje would also win the performance of the night bonus for finishing Ferguson in round five via TKO. Gaethje snapped Tony’s 12-fight winning streak and cemented himself as the next challenger for Khabib’s undisputed championship.
The fight takes place Saturday, October 24 on pay-per-view and UFC Fight Pass. The location and time have yet to be announced by the UFC.
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