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Justin Gaethje: Beating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 isn’t the destination, it’s the map to Khabib

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After a small hiccup that forced Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president, Dana White, to scratch the planned UFC 249 event originally scheduled for April 18, 2020, it will now go down on May 9.

The pay-per-view (PPV) card is set to feature a headlining title fight that will see Tony Ferguson face off against Justin Gaethje for the interim Lightweight strap. For Gaethje, while winning the interim belt is a nice accomplishment, he’s looking at the bigger picture: a title unification bout against division kingpin, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be the destination,” Gaethje told ESPN. “It will be a map to the top. That’s who I’m looking at. It’ll be nice to have a belt wrapped around, but for me, it won’t mean the same. It won’t mean I’m a world champion in the UFC.”

Khabib and Gaethje are both represented by the same manager, Ali Abdelaziz, but that won’t prevent either man from throwing bombs at each other, which is exactly what “Highlight” wants from “The Eagle" should they find themselves staring each other down.

“When I beat Tony, I’m fighting Khabib next. That’s what I’m here for, to be the best in the world. And when I fight him, I want him to try and kill me, because I won’t respect him if he doesn’t.”

Winner of three in a row — all via first round knockout — Gaethje has long been one of the most dangerous fighters in the game. Ferguson, meanwhile, hasn’t tasted defeat in eight years, winning 12 in a row (18 of 19 overall). Their impressive resumes are a sure-fire recipe for an entertaining title fight for the ages, which is likely to go down in Florida. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, of course.

As for the title unification bout, that likely won’t happen until September, which is when Nurmagomedov plans on returning after taking time off for Ramadan.

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 249: “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.