With sport and especially that of a more combative nature being put on pause for the last couple of months, the Coronavirus pandemic has certainly asked questions regarding the staging of the UFC’s next event.
The most pertinent of those questions, obviously being whether the event would go ahead with Dana White’s somewhat leftfield thinking scuppered at the last moment, a delay to proceedings was always going to be inevitable.
With rabid fans of the UFC not allowed to attend in Brooklyn on the originally scheduled date of April 18, White announced his sensational plan for UFC events to be hosted on a private island.
A plan that almost looked like it would allow the event to take part on the date on tribal lands in California caused both Disney and ESPN to get cold feet at this prospect and had to use its rights-holding leverage to cancel White’s plans.
Undeterred, the aim for the fights to take place continued and with a little help from the WWE and Vince McMahon in particular, a solution was eventually found in the state of Florida.
After much lobbying from McMahon, wrestling and other professional sporting disciplines were deemed ‘essential’ to the Floridian economy by state Governor Ron DeSantis and that was all that White and the UFC needed to press ahead with the rescheduling objective.
UFC 249 is one of three upcoming events that will be held at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena within the next fortnight and with Tony Ferguson being the favorite in the main event, the pressure is on the 36-year-old to deliver.
When Ferguson enters the Octagon, he will have to deal with a fighter who has been drafted in as a replacement, and the man in question, is none other than Justin Gaethje – who holds an impressive 21-2 record at the time of writing.
Although Ferguson will be keen to prove his toughness, there will be an element of frustration for a fighter who desperately wants to get to grips with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
With Nurmagomedov unable to travel into the United States, it means that the man who conquered Conor McGregor is currently inactive and although rescheduled pairings happen from time to time, this is the fifth time that Ferguson and Russia’s MMA king have now failed to get it on.
Which means this will be something of a proving ground for the man who fights out of Ventura, Calif., and if he can extend his current winning streak to 13, then he will be in the box seat for an eventual lightweight title shot and will also claim possession of the interim championship.
However, with the reward also comes risk, and should the outsider Gaethje record his fourth straight victory, suddenly the 2010 NCAA Division I All-American wrestler will be catapulted into the title mix. Gaethje’s impressive record in MMA would look even better, were it not for successive defeats early in his UFC career and after being bested by both Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier in the space of four months, the writing almost looked on the wall. Thankfully after a resurgence in form, any imminent threat of being cut from UFC’s stable of fighters has been removed and now the focus turns to move up the rankings while attempting to claim arguably his biggest scalp to date.
Although this is billed as the main event of the evening, one should not forget that there are another four fights scheduled for the main bill and the best of the rest will surely be the duel for the bantamweight championship.
Here we’ll see current champion Henry Cejudo take on challenger Dominick Cruz and with the latter coming off a loss to Coby Garbrandt at UFC 207 – one that also saw him lose the bantamweight belt, he will be aiming for a shot at redemption.
There is no doubt that UFC is always explosive viewing and although the look and feel may be different to what we are used to, at least the spectacle will be back in front of us. Something that all MMA fans will undoubtedly be grateful for.