Now what for the fighters and the UFC?


Regardless of the UFC pulling out the entire stops to check out to make it occur, UFC 249 will no longer happen April 18.

On Thursday, UFC president Dana White advised ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that the cardboard is off and all UFC occasions are postponed indefinitely because of the COVID-19 international pandemic.

The primary tournament was once to start with intended to be Khabib Nurmagomedov protecting his UFC light-weight name in opposition to Tony Ferguson in Brooklyn, however the coronavirus compelled the development out of New York and Nurmagomedov were given caught in Russia because of go back and forth restrictions.

The backup plan was once Ferguson taking over Justin Gaethje for the intervening time light-weight name at Tachi Palace On line casino Hotel in Lemoore, California. The venue is on Local American, sovereign land, and due to this fact did not must abide by means of the state’s rules. However Thursday, the UFC pulled the plug, White mentioned, because of intervention from the “absolute best stage you’ll be able to cross at Disney, and the absolute best stage at ESPN.”

ESPN mentioned in a observation: “ESPN has been in consistent touch with the UFC relating to UFC 249. No one needs to peer sports activities go back greater than we do, however we did not really feel this was once the best time for quite a lot of causes. ESPN expressed its considerations to the UFC and so they understood.”

With UFC 249 off and no occasions taking place for no less than a number of weeks, ESPN insiders Brett Okamoto, Jeff Wagenheim and Marc Raimondi check out what might be subsequent for Ferguson, Gaethje and the UFC generally.

What will have to the UFC do with Tony Ferguson?

Okamoto: Pay him some repayment for a camp that started again in December, and a willingness to transport directly to Justin Gaethje when Khabib Nurmagomedov changed into unavailable. Then advertise him throughout this downtime, inspire other people to look at his fights, get to understand him, see what an entertaining and gifted fighter he’s. After which book that man to a championship fight against Nurmagomedov for the 6th time. As a result of no one likes a quitter. We will be able to’t hand over in this matchup.

Raimondi: It in reality will depend on how briefly the UFC gets again up and operating. May it’s Might? June? Usually, I might say Khabib Nurmagomedov will have to be the opponent. It is imaginable no person has deserved a name shot extra in UFC historical past and now not gotten one than Ferguson, who has now not misplaced since 2012. Simply consider that!

However, alternatively, Nurmagomedov is not likely to struggle till August or September, after he takes ample time to get ready following Ramadan, which starts in two weeks. Will Ferguson wish to wait till overdue summer season or early fall? If that is so, then completely he should get an opportunity on the light-weight belt in opposition to Nurmagomedov. If he does not wish to wait, then let’s convey Ferguson and Gaethje to “Battle Island.”

Wagenheim: Pay the person, initially. He did not recoil when his opponent modified from smothering grappler to thunder-fisted KO artist — and who amongst us would not recoil when faced by means of Justin Gaethje? The UFC owes Ferguson big-time for saving the UFC 249 card, if most effective briefly. Shifting ahead, Ferguson’s close to long run depends on the UFC’s close to long run. If the fights resume on some personal island throughout the coming weeks and even the following couple of months, the UFC can resurrect Ferguson vs. Gaethje. But when this prolong is going way past Ramadan and Nurmagomedov is in a position to go back, then it has got to be Khabib vs. Tony. 6th time is the attraction.

What about Justin Gaethje? Does he get some type of name shot?

Okamoto: Sadly, most certainly now not. I imply, a minimum of now not the following one. The truth is that Gaethje is the second-most deserving light-weight for a name shot, proper after Ferguson. He merits to struggle the winner of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, however we all know there’s a 5,000-pound gorilla within the room by means of the title of Conor McGregor. Possibly McGregor will agree to stand Gaethje. Or, as a result of Nurmagomedov and Ferguson may not occur till August on the earliest, possibly McGregor will sit down again and wait. Gaethje may get the quick finish of the stick in this one, sadly.

Raimondi: The chips will most likely fall for Gaethje relying on what the UFC comes to a decision to do subsequent with Nurmagomedov and Ferguson. If Ferguson comes to a decision to look ahead to Nurmagomedov’s go back in August or September, then Gaethje’s subsequent opponent will have to be transparent: the only and most effective Conor McGregor. McGregor vs. Gaethje is the bout the UFC was once considering for summer season ahead of the entire coronavirus pandemic modified everybody’s plans. That are supposed to no doubt be revisited, as this can be a coherent trail — for McGregor or Gaethje — to a name shot.

Within the tournament that Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson isn’t the path the UFC is going, then you’ll be able to slot Gaethje in in opposition to Ferguson, which was once the short-notice plan for UFC 249. McGregor would clearly be essentially the most horny opponent for Gaethje, particularly given the payday, however who would not wish to see Ferguson vs. Gaethje the place each get complete camps? That is a possible struggle of the century.

Wagenheim: If the UFC resumes ahead of Khabib is in a position to go back, Ferguson vs. Gaethje will have to be proper again in play. If he finally ends up because the extraordinary guy out when the champ returns to stand Ferguson, Gaethje may just safe a name shot of his personal by means of stepping within the cage with every other candidate for a championship bout — McGregor. Gaethje may just additionally earn some great pocket exchange with that reserving. Which strikes a chord in my memory — similar to Ferguson, Gaethje merits a payday from the UFC too for being the opposite UFC 249 savior.

What is the one struggle from UFC 249 that should keep in combination on every occasion fights resume?

Okamoto: It must be the strawweight matchup between Rose Namajunas and Jessica Andrade. Namajunas’ supervisor Brian Butler launched a observation on Thursday pronouncing Namajunas would not compete at UFC 249 due to two deaths in her family related to COVID-19. My middle is going out to Namajunas and who is aware of when she’s going to wish to resume her occupation. But when she’s in a position on every occasion the UFC is in a position, that is a marquee struggle. Rematch. Name implications. It all.

Raimondi: I might vote for Namajunas vs. Andrade. To start with, how compelling has matchmaker Mick Maynard made the UFC’s girls’s strawweight department? Champion Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk simply had one of the vital biggest fights in UFC historical past remaining month. Namajunas has overwhelmed Jedrzejczyk two times, most effective to lose the belt — by way of implausible slam knockout — to Andrade remaining June. Then, Zhang stopped Andrade by means of TKO two months later to take the name.

Each a kind of matchups is can’t-miss and there is not any scarcity of fascinating contenders for Zhang. And we’ve not even introduced up Tatiana Suarez, who as soon as gave the look of the inheritor obvious at 115 kilos ahead of a neck damage sidelined her. Namajunas vs. Andrade could be a fantastic rematch — Namajunas was winning until the slam — and a name eliminator. It was once terrific matchmaking and will have to be rebooked as soon as Namajunas is in a position to get again within the Octagon.

Wagenheim: The struggle I am maximum married to is the person who was once canceled on Wednesday, and my deep condolences to Namajunas, who dropped out of her strawweight co-main tournament in opposition to Andrade on account of two deaths in her circle of relatives associated with the coronavirus. Rose will have to take always she must mourn, clearly, but if Namajunas is able to come again, on every occasion this is, Andrade will have to be there looking forward to her. They are each former champions, and Andrade was once the person who dethroned Namajunas remaining 12 months — in a bout Rose was once obviously profitable (till she wasn’t).

There may be intrigue on this rematch, now not the least of which is that the winner will have to be the following challenger for Zhang Weili. There have been two different No. 1 contender fights booked for UFC 249, however this was once the one one who was once irreplaceable.

Assuming that the fights do not resume for a couple of extra weeks, what’s your No. 1 query for the second one part of the 12 months?

Okamoto: At this time, it looks like: Will Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson if truth be told struggle? It is all we have now considered for months after which, as soon as once more, it did not occur. In heartbreaking type.

Past that despite the fact that, and in truth, extra importantly, what number of occasions will the UFC in reality have the ability to pull off? White advised me he nonetheless needs to position at the authentic selection of occasions scheduled for 2020, which is 42. Will that occur? What is going to that roughly frenzied agenda appear to be, and the way will it affect matchmaking?

And prefer many others, I in reality marvel what is going to the brand new commonplace even appear to be? If issues get again “to commonplace” for the UFC in the second one part, what occurs to the are living audiences? What precautions for this virus will stay in position?

Raimondi: What does the UFC’s agenda appear to be? How will the fights be arranged? The place will fights be positioned? Will enthusiasts be within the stands? OK, that is a couple of query.

Let’s get started with the primary idea. UFC president Dana White mentioned that the plan is to nonetheless run 42 occasions this 12 months. The UFC already has 8 performed in 2020. That leaves 34 extra with 37 weeks last. And no person is aware of when the UFC will likely be again up and operating. Simply by doing the mathematics, it kind of feels like we are speaking about two occasions in a given week overdue in 2020. Possibly 3? There will likely be a number of combatants who wish to compete, so that are meant to now not be an issue.

How cool would back-to-back-to-back days of occasions — all with massive fights — be? It is unquestionably one thing to sit up for later this 12 months. Hands crossed.

Wagenheim: Such a lot is up within the air presently that it feels foolish to invest on specifics. As an alternative, my query will likely be philosophical: As soon as the UFC resumes, will the focal point be on presenting stacked mega-cards to make a large splash and draw enthusiasts again in, or will the massive fights be unfold out, most likely week after week, to get the income glide churning alongside? Will name fights and bouts resulting in name fights be the focal point, or will the UFC veer within the path of amusing fights and outside-the-box matchmaking?

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