There is a new interim Lightweight UFC champion and it’s not Tony Ferguson.
Justin Gaethje, once a last-minute replacement for the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, stopped Ferguson in the fifth round by TKO after a brutal battle.
In the quietest UFC event, perhaps ever, the fighters on a stacked card battled it out in an empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, with just a few teammates, cameras, commentators and of course, UFC president Dana White for company.
Gaethje and Ferguson came out swinging and the fight featured some huge shots from both men. Ferguson even managed to put Gaethje on the canvas with a huge uppercut at the end of round two. Gaethje was saved by bell.
In a primarily stand up fight both men pressed hard. Ferguson’s legendary cardio and conditioning helped him withstand an onslaught from Justin Gaethje in a fight that never should have been.
Ferguson was slated to fight Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov but due to travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus, the champion got stuck in Russia.
The two men have been matched up to fight five times, and each time fate has stepped in to prevent it.
Post-fight, Nurmagomedov tweeted this:
No comment.— khabib nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) May 10, 2020
Gaethje used his post-fight interview to say that he wants no other fight but Khabib now.
In addition, the UFC event itself, originally scheduled to take place in April, was postponed until now.
Dana White looked into hiring a private island to host the event but eventually, they found a venue in Florida.
All the fighters and staff were tested for coronavirus, with one fighter—Ronaldo Souza— being removed from the card after testing positive.
Elsewhere on the card there was additional drama and huge knockouts. Henry Cejudo stopped Dominic Cruz to retain his Bantamweight title, Francis Ngannou knocked out Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds and Anthony Pettis stopped Donald Cowboy Cerrone in three rounds.
This was already a stacked card with an extremely unusual and extended build up, but UFC 249 might well be remembered as the event which reminded the world how brutal this sport can be.
Remove the noise of the crowd and what you’re left with is the crunching sound of punches and the thump as bodies hit the canvas.