Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

UFC 249: Justin Gaethje sets sights on Khabib Nurmagomedov after impressive TKO win over Tony Ferguson

The American produced a hugely dominant performance to inflict a first defeat in 13 fights on his compatriot

Newly crowned interim champion Justin Gaethje called out Khabib Nurmagomedov following a career-highlight victory against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on Sunday.

The American, who went into the headline bout in Jacksonville, Florida as a slight underdog, defeated Ferguson by TKO in the fifth round in a hugely dominant performance.

Ferguson, significantly bloodied and bruised by the conclusion, suffered his first loss in 13 fights - a run stretching back eight years.

Gaethje is now expected to face undefeated lightweight champion Nurmagomedov next, with the fight maybe even taking place in Abu Dhabi later this year.

Speaking in the octagon immediately afterwards, Gaethje said: "There's no other challenge I want right now. I want to fight him."

Ngannou lands KO of the night

Despite the absence of a crowd, the fights that made up UFC 249 lacked nothing in intensity, with Francis Ngannou scoring the knockout of the night, blitzing Jairzinho Rozenstruik with a left hook to force a stoppage after just 20 seconds of the first round.

Sam Alvey was the first fighter into the empty arena on the night, pointing and high-fiving the imaginary crowd as he made his way to the cage where he fell to a decision loss to Ryan Spann in the evening's opening fight on the prelim card.

Apart from the fighters, the referees and the commentators, event staff wore face masks and only one corner-man per fighter was allowed into the cage in the breaks between rounds.

"It was funny, I could hear a lot. Everybody out there I could hear really clearly, but at the same time ... it wasn't much different than if the crowd were there," Vicente Luque told reporters following his stoppage win over Niko Price.

Such was the silence that Luque was able to hear the commentators, and heavyweight Greg Hardy said he was able to take the advice of TV commentator Daniel Cormier to counter Yorgan De Castro's leg kicks en route to a decision victory.

Cejudo calls it a day

In the co-main event, Henry Cejudo retained his bantamweight belt with a second-round stoppage win over Dominick Cruz before immediately retiring in the octagon. The 33-year-old, who won a gold medal for wrestling at the 2008 Olympics, has said he was happy with his career and that he wanted to start a family.

Returning after a long layoff, former champ Cruz was dropped with a knee to the head and suffered the first knockout of his career with just two seconds left in the second round.

However, the biggest prize of the night went to Gaethje, who is now next in line to face Nurmagomedov for the undisputed lightweight crown.

"I'll wait for the real one," Gaethje said as he tossed the interim belt aside moments after it was put around his waist.

Updated: May 10, 2020 04:49 PM

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