UFC 209 Shocker: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson Fight Cancelled
The hype surrounding the much-anticipated UFC 209 fight card has hit a brick wall on Friday, with news breaking that there will be a massive change to the main event.
The main draw of UFC 209 remains a welterweight title rematch between champion Tyron Woodley and top challenger Stephen Thompson, but an interim lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was arguably carrying more weight as the weekend drew closer.
Now it’s gone from the card completely:
— #UFC209 (@btsportufc) March 3, 2017
Per reports, the interim lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson has officially been cancelled, with the undefeated Nurmagomedov being recently hospitalized and unable to participate in the fight.
Khabib Nurmagomedov Backs Out
In a shocking development, Nurmagomedov had to back out of UFC 209 after being admitted to the hospital due to weight cutting issues.
FOX Sports reported the undefeated fighter was taken to Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center on Thursday and will not fight after doctors recommended against it.
Nurmagomedov was scheduled to battle the 22-3 Ferguson for the interim lightweight title, with the winner slated for a future showdown with Conor McGregor at a later event.
While the loss of Nurmagomedov and possibly this fight as a whole is a big blow to UFC 209, Woodley and Thompson both reportedly made weight and will still headline the event.
It’s extremely late notice to try to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov at this point, but Dana White is already rumored to be considering alternative options.
Nurmagomedov’s absence could bring a serious hit to PPV sales for UFC 209 and it will be in the UFC’s best interest to find a replacement fighter.
Many MMA pundits have chimed in, suggesting other lightweight talents like Nate Diaz and Eddie Alvarez as substitution options. Both fighters have taken to social media to promote themselves as candidates to battle Ferguson, with Alvarez stating on Twitter that he’s ready to rumble:
I’m a fit trim 185 lb today !! let’s work something out show Me the $$$$$$ ill catch a flight 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻💪🏻💪🏻💪🏻
— Eddie Alvarez (@Ealvarezfight) March 3, 2017
There has also been chatter that a fight with Michael Johnson could be worked out, although no specific details or odds of a fight being agreed upon are known at this time:
Tony Ferguson isn’t off the card. A Michael Johnson bout is in the works, though there is work to do as far as sanctioning the fight #UFC209
— Adam Hill (@AdamHillLVRJ) March 3, 2017
While Alvarez, Diaz, Johnson and a number of other options would still bring a high profile fight to the co-main event, it us unclear if the fight would carry the same weight as the initial battle between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson did.
Can UFC 209 Succeed?
The biggest question with this news is whether or not UFC 209 will survive. The knee-jerk reaction is that this is a massive blow to the event’s upside, but Dana White will likely work to find a suitable replacement and still aim to make this a very meaningful fight. Tony Ferguson remains one of the biggest lightweight draws in the UFC and provided he stays on for UFC 209 and has a solid opponent, the event will be fine.
It’s even arguable UFC 209 can thrive despite this disappointing news. The welterweight title rematch between Woodley and Thompson is still a massive showdown, and with oddsmakers recently backing Thompson as the favorite at many UFC betting websites, this is a fight that some don’t know how to call. The unpredictability here (the first meeting ended in a Draw) make it must-see MMA TV.
It is also helpful that the rest of he card is rather stacked. Should Tony Ferguson not get a worthy opponent in time to stick as the co-main event this weekend, a heavyweight clash between Alistair Overeem and Mark Hunt could move up the ranks.
For now, this is still bad news for UFC 209, but there could be time for the event to recover.
Who Will Face McGregor?
This is the million dollar question when it’s all said and done, as McGregor has suggested in the past that Khabib hadn’t earned a fight with him because he doesn’t fight enough and can’t consistently make weights.
The fact that Nurmagomedov had to back out of this fight only proves the points made by The Notorious and should delay any future battle. Instead, we may be headed for a direct fight with Tony Ferguson, or if a Ferguson fight still goes down at UFC 209, it’s quite possible the winner of that fight still earns a shot at McGregor.
We also still don’t know for sure when McGregor will be returning to the Octagon, so just like what happens with this UFC 209 fight, it’s anyone’s guess who will face The Notorious next.
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