After many days of questions and theories, we finally have our answer.
UFC President Dana White has announced that Tony Ferguson will be facing Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 on April 18. The fight will be for the interim Lightweight Championship. A location for the event is still being determined.
Dana posted the following on social media: “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!”
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
How exactly did this fight come to be? The bout was initially Ferguson (25-3) v. Khabib Nurmagomedov for the latter’s UFC Lightweight Championship. Due to the coronavirus and gyms not being open, Khabib went back to Russia. He then stayed there to quarantine, citing a lack of location for the event a main reason why. Ferguson demanded he be stripped of the belt after adding another chapter to the timeline of cancelled bouts between the two.
Gaethje ended up being the frontrunner to replace Khabib at UFC 249. He has won three fights in a row since August 2018, his last fight a TKO-win over Donald Cerrone back in September. Initial reports had Gaethje facing Conor McGregor during the summer. A few months ago, Gaethje spoke to MMA Fighting about his training with everything shutting down.
“The gyms are closed but I went in, we had four people,” Gaethje stated. “Me, Drew Dober and both of our coaches so it was four people in the gym. “I think as long as you have under 10 people. I’m not really sure what the rules are. They definitely closed all the gyms to the public.
“It’s been pretty normal for me. I go to the office. I have a treadmill downstairs so I can just put the work in on the treadmill. That’s the good thing about fighting. Really, it’s just cardio and it’s easy to get cardio and trying not to get lazy and trying not to eat all the food we got stocked up.”
— Justin Gaethje 🇺🇸 (@Justin_Gaethje) April 6, 2020
Ferguson’s last fight was also against Cerrone, winning via TKO at UFC 238. He has fought for the interim Lightweight Title before, beating Kevin Lee back at UFC 216.
UFC 249 still needs a location. It was reported earlier that it would take place on the West Coast, but with no verified spot. The Nevada, New York and California Athletic Commissions have all barred combat sports from taking place, while several other states have ensured that fights were not going to happen there.
Stay tuned as more information for UFC 249 is expected to come out.