Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 August 2020

UFC 249: Marquee fight night planned for Las Vegas on May 9

Tony Ferguson has agreed to take on Justin Gaethje

UFC president Dana White is forging forward with attempts to set up a marquee fight night for the sport’s potential return on May 9.

The promotion’s plans to hold UFC 249 on April 18 fell apart last week when pressure from Disney and ESPN, parent company and broadcast partner, forced White to “stand down” in his bid to put on the show in the United States. The UFC have had to cancel their past four events because of the coronavirus crisis.

However, according to ESPN on Tuesday, White remains adamant the UFC will be the first sport to return to hosting live events, with a loaded card next month in the works.

Tony Ferguson, the No 1-ranked challenger in the lightweight division, is understood to have verbally agreed to take on Justin Gaethje for the interim title. The pair were supposed to meet at UFC 249 after Gaethje accepted a late offer to stand in for undisputed champion Khabib Nurmagomedov following the Russian’s withdrawal.

Nurmagomedov is currently in his native Dagestan and cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions imposed there in light of the coronavirus.

A provisional line-up for the card also includes Henry Cejudo defending his bantamweight champion against former champion Dominick Cruz. Cejudo had been slated to fight Jose Aldo on May 9 at UFC 250 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, but the fight fell victim to yet more travel restrictions.

Elsewhere, women's featherweight champion Amanda Nunes, who also holds the bantamweight belt, is being lined up to defend her 145-pound title against Felicia Spencer, while the highly anticipated heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and Jair Rozenstruik is expected to get the go ahead, too.

White’s ambitious card also features the hugely popular Donald Cerrone against Anthony Pettis. It would mark Cerrone’s first return to the octagon since his 40-second loss to Conor McGregor in January.

As for location, White has confirmed he plans to host the event at the Apex training facility in Las Vegas, paving the way for subsequent shows to be staged there for the foreseeable future.

In a statement given to Variety, the UFC president said: "We built the Apex facility next door just in time to save the day from this pandemic. Live fights will be produced out of there starting next month and for the foreseeable future."

Updated: April 15, 2020 10:54 AM

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