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UFC 249: Dana White skips Conor McGregor, gives Ferguson-Gaethje winner next shot at Khabib in September

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UFC 229 - Press Conference Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was supposed to defend his 155-pound strap against top-ranked division contender, Tony Ferguson, in the UFC 249 pay-per-view (PPV) main event on April 18 in Brooklyn, New York, with the winner moving on to face Conor McGregor later this year.

You know what they say about the best laid plans...

Instead, Nurmagomedov will remain under quarantine in Russia — thanks to the coronavirus pandemic that has most of the world on lockdown — and Ferguson will move on to fight late replacement Justin Gaethje at some remote island that operates outside the jurisdiction of athletic commissions, because self regulation is all the rage in 2020.

“It’s a no-brainer,” UFC President Dana White told ESPN. “You have two of the top guys in the world that everybody felt that if Conor was going to get a shot at Khabib, that actually Gaethje should get it before Conor. It couldn’t have worked out any better. It’s two of the top guys in the world. Khabib is out, so the winner will face Khabib.”

McGregor returned to mixed martial arts (MMA) back in January, thrashing longtime “Cowboy” Donald Cerrone at welterweight. It was enough to get “Notorious” back into the title conversation because the power-punching Irishman is biggest draw in the sport and well, let’s just say the company could use the cash right about now.

But like his Dagestani nemesis, McGregor remains locked down overseas, though White is painting a fairly optimistic picture of the future of the lightweight division.

“It’s great, it’ll be for the interim title, and we’re all going to have to wait again and try to do [Nurmagomedov-Ferguson] in September,” he said. “People want to see this fight, they want to see it happen. Brooklyn sold out in minutes, so it’s the fight that people want to see. Unfortunately, we’re just going to have to wait a little bit longer.”

To see the finalized UFC 249 fight card and line up click here.