Some things are just not meant to be.
The Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns will never find their franchise quarterback. The Vancouver Canucks or Buffalo Sabres are never going to win a Stanley Cup. And at the rate they’re going, lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are never going to fight each other in the UFC.
The sports world has been turned on its head
In one 36-hour span this week, nearly every sport imaginable in the United States suspended its season, canceled its tournament or otherwise retreated in the face of the coronavirus outbreak. Even Major League Baseball had to make a concession to the scope of the pandemic. Regular-season openers were scheduled for March 26, but commissioner Rob Manfred announced Thursday that there would be a minimum of a two-week delay.
Two notable exceptions are sports with the advantage of more lead time before their next major events.
Although NFL free agency begins next week and players do traditionally meet in person with coaches and general managers, much of the work can be done via the phone and teleconferences. Even the annual draft in mid-April can be conducted from the respective offices of the 32 franchises if necessary.
The other sports entity with some lead time is mixed martial arts. UFC 249 isn’t until April 18 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. That could be far enough down the road to allow the fight to take place … or it could become the latest in an almost unfathomable string of postponements for a matchup that fans have anticipated for years only to be disappointed repeatedly.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson is the most cursed fight ever
It took years before Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao finally faced off in the boxing ring in May 2015, but that was a function of the two sides being unable to come to terms on a contract for the fight. The perception was that Mayweather was ducking Pacquiao.
In the case of Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, their UFC matchup has been jinxed repeatedly and now may be jinxed again. On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that gatherings of 500 or more people will be prohibited in the state until further notice in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
That could result in the fifth – yes, the fifth – postponement of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson.
They were to meet in 2015 until Nurmagomedov broke a rib. In 2016, Ferguson had to withdraw less than two weeks before the fight because of an accumulation of fluids in his lungs.
It was Nurmagomedov’s turn again to bow out in 2017 because of illness related to him trying to make a late weight cut. And in April 2018, Ferguson tripped and injured a knee less than a week before their scheduled match.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson is worth the wait
Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) has been on a dominant run throughout his career. In 2018, he won the lightweight championship that Tony Ferguson had to relinquish due to injury and Nurmagomedov has triumphed twice since. The first title defense was in October 2018 when he beat Conor McGregor by submission.
Ferguson (25-3) will be coming into UFC 249 on a 12-fight winning streak since losing a unanimous decision to Michael Johnson in May 2012 and only three of those matches have gone the distance. He’s either been the Performer of the Night of part of the Fight of the Night in seven of his last eight outings, including the TKO of Donald Cerrone last June.