UFC tapping lightweight contender Justin Gaethje to replace Khabib against Tony Ferguson - report
Nurmagomedov announced early on Monday that travel restrictions placed on Russia means that he will most likely be unable to leave the country to finally meet Ferguson in a UFC cage.
While there have been no official comments from Dana White or the UFC as of yet, a report from ESPN's Ariel Helwani suggests that the organization's matchmakers are scrambling to identify an opponent willing to step in against "El Cucuy" on just three weeks' notice.
That first port of call? Justin Gaethje.Also on rt.com Frozen out: Khabib Nurmagomedov says he's stuck in Russia and UFC 249 could move on WITHOUT HIM
Lightweight standout Gaethje has been actively campaigning to be paired up with Conor McGregor in recent months but with the Irish fighter confined within his own borders for the time being, it seems that he may get his chance to rise to the summit of the rankings with a short-notice fight with Tony Ferguson.
As a result, Tony Ferguson, per sources, has been offered a fight against top contender Justin Gaethje, however, that fight has not been agreed upon nor finalized. Neither has a location for the event.— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) March 30, 2020
While any potential fight between Ferguson and Gaethje is currently in the preliminary stages of negotiations and far from being confirmed, it could potentially be helped along by the fact that Gaethje and Nurmagomedov share a management company, Ali Abdelaziz's Dominance MMA.
It is also worth noting that the UFC's insistence on holding a fight card on April 18 remains, for now, intact and not, as previously thought, a card assembled solely for the purpose of finally holding the seemingly cursed Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight.
Second time I say yes to the crotch sniffing champ, second time he has a date #theresurrection— Jorge Masvidal UFC (@GamebredFighter) March 30, 2020
@ufc Me vs Qweefington April 18th unless Tony wanna roll back up to his Ultimate Fighter weight for the bag. WW bout won't take no cheese out his LW macaroni.— Tyron T-Wood Woodley (@TWooodley) March 30, 2020
Should the UFC fail to agree terms with Gaethje, there are at least two other UFC fighters who have indicated their interest. UFC "BMF" Jorge Masvidal wrote on Twitter that he is "free" on April 18 and that this would be the second time that he would, "Say yes to the crotch sniffing champ."
Meanwhile, the last man to be beaten by Nurmagomedov – Dustin Poirier – also stated on Twitter that he would be more than willing to step in to fill the gap against Ferguson, while former welterweight champion Tyron Woodley also said he would be available should Ferguson consider a fight at 170lbs.