The stands may be empty, but Khabib vs. Ferguson could STILL BE the UFC's biggest fight of all time
With Dana White close to revealing his plans for UFC 249, it seems the lightweight title fight the world wants to see WILL indeed go ahead. And, despite the current coronavirus lockdown, it could end up being bigger than ever.
Given the turbulent, at-times incredible, timeline of events that has plagued their matchup for years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was truly jinxed.
FOUR times the fight has been booked previously, and FOUR times the fight has fallen through. Injuries, illnesses and a freak accident involving Ferguson and a stray cable on the FOX Sports TV set all contrived to see each of the UFC’s previous bookings fall by the wayside. It’s enough to make Dana White’s head spin.
Indeed, for a while it looked like the chance to match the pair had been and gone, with Ferguson picking up a knee injury and Khabib moving up to face Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. But now Ferguson is back at full fitness and raring to go, while Khabib is looking for the biggest and best challenge to help cement his legacy as the greatest 155-pounder to grace the UFC octagon.
It all led to the pair being matched for a FIFTH time, with fight fans around the world all sharing the same thought: “Surely the fight couldn’t fall through again?”
Everything looked positive. Both men looked fit and ready, and their recent press conference only served to stoke the fires of anticipation even more. Finally, at the fifth time of asking, it was really going to happen.
Then the coronavirus hit, throwing the entire planet into meltdown and, eventually, lockdown.
The world’s biggest sports events, including the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, have all now been postponed, but the world’s biggest MMA fight, somehow, remains on, with White saying he has his location set and a fight card is coming together.
And, based on what he told ESPN during an Instagram Live, it won’t just be a regular fight card.
“We’re trying to build the baddest card that’s ever been done in the history of the sport.”
Some may ask why so much effort is being put into staging a sporting event that nobody will be allowed in to watch?
The truth is, with or without a paying crowd, this could be one of the biggest nights in UFC history – if not, THE biggest.
The UFC’s Saturday night events usually have to compete with other sports, both for promotion in the lead-up to the event, and for viewers on fight night itself. But with the rest of the sporting world effectively on hiatus, the UFC could well find itself not as the only show in town, but the only show in the world.
If everything is confirmed that White’s ambitious plans CAN and WILL go ahead, it would give the UFC the opportunity to put on an event for the ages, featuring some of its biggest, most spectacular stars, on a night where sports fans have only one sporting event available to watch.
The lack of bums on seats in the arena will be a mere irrelevance if the fight is broadcast worldwide to tens of millions. The desire for fans to watch live sport, coupled with the fact that many sports fans online appear to being going into cold turkey already, means pay-per-view buy-ups could go through the roof as fans flock to their televisions, laptops and other streaming devices to get their one and only fix of live sporting action on April 18.
Throw in the fact that the card will be topped by the most anticipated fight in recent UFC history, between the two men with the longest win streaks in the promotion, AND the fact that it’s for a world title, and it gives you everything you need to not only pull in the usual MMA fans, but also potentially interest a host of part-time and even first-time MMA watchers to check out the UFC.
We know the production will be top drawer. We also know the fighters are the best on the planet. All the world needs to know now is that it is definitely happening, and where and when to watch.
When that happens, there’s a fair chance a sizeable chunk of the sports-watching world will check it out.