A ‘cursed’ superfight? Why UFC fans are so worried about jinxing Khabib vs Ferguson
It was confirmed late on Friday that Khabib Nurmagomedov, the UFC lightweight champion, will defend his crown against Tony Ferguson in April and if this is a familiar sentence to read, that is because this has happened - and subsequently fallen apart - on no fewer than four previous occasions.
Rarely has a fight which has such important ramifications for their division seemed to be so difficult to set. But here we are once again, nearly five years after the UFC first attempted to book both fighters against each other, and despite the formalities being agreed for April 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, past experience suggests fight fans will be forgiven for believing this will be reality only when the two fighters set foot on the octagon canvas in a few months' time.
And if you need a refresher as to why this has been an almost impossible fight to arrange, consider the following.
The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale - December 11, 2015
Well over a year after what was to that point the biggest win of Nurmagomedov's career against Rafael Dos Anjos (and after two aborted attempts to arrange a fight with Donald Cerrone), the UFC made their first attempt at booking Khabib v. Ferguson but it was scuppered a couple of months out by a rib injury suffered by the Dagestani grappler. Ferguson instead fought Edson Barboza in a fight he won by second round submission.
UFC on FOX 19 - April 16, 2016
Let's try this one again, shall we? With both fighters fit and available, the UFC tried to reschedule the fight for the main event of a card in Tampa, Florida, but once again the fight was scrapped - this time 11 days before they were due to compete.
This time it was Ferguson who was ruled out after suffering a lung complaint. Instead, Khabib fought promotional newcomer Darrell Horcher at a catchweight of 160lbs and won the fight by second round TKO.
UFC 209 - March 4, 2017
Third time's a charm, surely? Not quite. Once again the fight gods inflicted their will on the Khabib-Ferguson rivalry, this time cancelling the bout on its eve after a particularly difficult weight cut for the Russian fighter saw him hospitalized and deemed medically ineligible to fight.
UFC 223 - April 7, 2018
OK, it can't possibly fall apart again can it? Yes it can. This time around, and less than a week out from the fight, it was announced that Ferguson has suffered a serious knee injury after he tripped over a cable in a television studio while promoting the fight.Also on rt.com Khabib Nurmagomedov becomes Russia’s first UFC champion
Ferguson was replaced by featherweight champion Max Holloway who was also later deemed medically unfit to fight after New York State Athletic Commission officials determined that his weight cut would be unsafe. Al Iaquinta was instead drafted in to fight Khabib on just hours' notice and was defeated by unanimous decision.
UFC Brooklyn - April 18, 2020
So, here we are again. It would quite frankly defy logic if this fight was to fall apart once more, although those words echo similar incredulous reactions to the last time the fight was cancelled. And the time before that, too.
If we put all of the history between the two fighters and their apparent inability to stay healthy at the same time to the side for one moment, in terms of divisional importance and a true signifier of the most dangerous threat at 155lbs this fight has no equal.
Ferguson is one of the few fighters in the lightweight division who, on paper at least, is capable of posing serious threats to Nurmagomedov on the ground - the wheelhouse from which the Russian's strategy is formed.Also on rt.com ‘Time to give the fans what they want’: Ferguson teases Khabib showdown with epic video as fight edges closer to confirmation
By the time the fight takes place (we write with crossed fingers), Ferguson will be on a 12-fight, eight-year winning streak and when you hold that up in the light against Nurmagomedov's perfect 28-0 record (12 of those wins being in the UFC) this is a fight that HAS to take place lest the spectre of a 'cursed' fight between the division's two most in-form fighters become theater in its own right.