In most sports, you get to the championship by winning. Professional combat sports are more complex – fan interest also plays a significant role. Put differently, how much money the fight would make matters. In the NFL just because the Pats sell the most jerseys doesn’t give them an edge in landing a spot in the Superbowl. In landing a UFC title, it does.
So for long weeks Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson have been posturing and bickering, but finally, it’s over. Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson is official at UFC 209, and it’s for the interim lightweight title.
UFC 209 takes place on March 4, 2017 at the T-Mobile Arena in las Vegas, Nevada. Welterweight Tyron Woodley has a rematch with Stephen Thompson in the main event.
The interim title came about because lightweight champion Conor McGregor is out until May, when he and longtime partner Dee Devlin are expecting their first child. McGregor won the title on November 12, 2016. Holding an interim fight less than four months later feels rushed. However, McGregor is out until May which would push it out to six months, and he has showed no interest in defending the belt. He instead wants to box Floyd Mayweather, who wants to box him, too. Above all, the interim title is likely driven by the need to realize a return on a four billion dollar purchase, for an entity that grosses six hundred million. A belt on the line puts asses in seats.
This is the third time Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have been contracted to fight, but injuries by both fighters caused delays. Hope the third time is a charm.
Both fighters head into the bout with extraordinary records.
Ferguson is on a nine-fight win streak in the UFC, won six performance bonuses in his last five fights, and his last three fights were each Fight of the Night. Ferguson has won three Fight of the Nights and three ‘of the Night’ performance bonuses in his last five fights. By contrast, Nurmagomedov has won none. However, Nurmagomedov has never, ever lost, and is 24-0, and 8-0 in the UFC.
It’s going to be an extraordinary fight, just no one get hurt, please.