4:00 PM ET
Marc RaimondiESPN Staff Writer
UFC 249 has a new headliner.
With Khabib Nurmagomedov in Russia and facing potential travel issues, Tony Ferguson will now meet Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 249 on April 18, UFC president Dana White tweeted Monday. The fight for the interim lightweight title is “signed” and “100%” on, White wrote.
The fight is signed and is 100% ON LIVE on ESPN somewhere on EARTH!!!! 😃@TonyFergusonXT vs @Justin_Gaethje is LIVE on @espn+ PPV April 18th for the interim lightweight belt! pic.twitter.com/aH44zg5K30
— danawhite (@danawhite) April 6, 2020
The location of UFC 249 remains undisclosed. White tweeted that the fight will be “somewhere on EARTH!” ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported Sunday night that the UFC is targeting a venue on the West Coast for the card. It will more than likely take place in front of no fans.
“#forthepeople I’m terrified and I f—– love it. #ufc,” tweeted Gaethje on Monday.
The UFC 249 main event was supposed to be held in Brooklyn with Nurmagomedov defending his lightweight title against top contender Ferguson. However, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the UFC to change its plans. New York has become the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States and all large gatherings in the state — and many other places around the world — have been canceled.
Nurmagomedov flew home to Dagestan late last month with a location for the bout still unknown. The undefeated champ told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto last week that he would still fight Ferguson if he knew the location of the bout and could get there. White tweeted Sunday that Nurmagomedov was out of the event.
Ferguson, who lives and trains in Southern California, is currently ranked No. 2 in the world at lightweight by ESPN. Gaethje, who lives and trains in Colorado, is ranked No. 4. Both are considered among the most exciting fighters in the world at any weight class.
Ferguson (25-3) has won 12 straight and has not lost since 2012. He is coming off three consecutive finishes against a murderers’ row of top lightweights: Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis and Kevin Lee. Ferguson, 36, holds the longest winning streak in UFC lightweight history, yet has never gotten a shot at the undisputed title. Five times now fights between him and Nurmagomedov have been booked and fallen through.
Gaethje (21-2) has won three straight finishes over Cerrone, Edson Barboza and James Vick. The Arizona native has won $50,000 fight-night bonuses for either fight of the night or performance of the night in all six of his UFC fights. Gaethje, 31, is the former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion. One of the best action fighters in the sport and nicknamed “The Highlight,” Gaethje has only gone to decision twice in 23 career fights.