It seems the pairing of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson may indeed be cursed.
Such a sentiment sounds wild on the surface, but Ferguson’s recent pull out of their UFC 223 headliner for the lightweight championship marks the fourth time a fight between the two has fallen through.
The first fight was derailed when Nurmagomedov got injured. The second fell through when Ferguson was injured. The third fight seemed on, but a bad weight-cut sent Nurmagomedov to the hospital. Though the most recent cancellation was announced a mere six days before the planned showdown on April 7, this was no April fool’s joke.
Ferguson suffered what is now being called a “freak injury” to his knee. On a media set, he reportedly adjusted his path to avoid someone walking toward him. The slight shift was enough to tear his LCL from the bone, an injury that may need surgery.
Ferguson’s statement on Twitter said: “Words can’t explain how hurt, frustrated, angry, and in disbelief I am right now. As I was completing my UFC pre-fight media obligations on Friday, I had an accident on a studio set that tore a ligament in my knee.”
The statement also noted both Ferguson’s doctor and the UFC doctor told the interim champ he wouldn’t be able to compete. He issued apologies to the promotion, the fans, those closest to him, and even Nurmagomedov.
While the two make for a very interesting stylistic matchup, UFC president Dana White has stated he’ll never book the fight again. White also noted that Ferguson’s interim belt would be stripped, and that a replacement for him against Nurmagomedov has already been found.
Reigning featherweight champion Max Holloway will step up in weight on six-days’ notice to face the undefeated lightweight contender. The bout is reportedly for the undisputed lightweight championship.
The man who has held that title since late 2016, Conor McGregor, seemed like the logical choice to step in. Statements had already swirled about McGregor’s decision to keep ready just in case there was a pull out, but White said there wasn’t enough time to promote it.
McGregor may be one of the UFC’s biggest draws, if not their biggest, but Holloway is no slouch. Named by many publications as the 2017 fighter of the year, he’s riding a 12-fight win streak coming into this bout. Should he win, he’ll become the fifth man to hold UFC titles in two different weight classes and the second to hold them simultaneously.
Holloway is a busy man, making his willingness to fill in even more impressive. He was recovering from an injury as well, one so severe it caused him to withdraw from his planned title defense against Frankie Edgar.
Holloway already has a fight scheduled next at featherweight against undefeated contender Brian Ortega. With one undefeated opponent waiting for him at lightweight and one waiting at featherweight, Holloway is certainly earning a reputation as one of the bravest and most tenacious fighters in the sport.