Khabib Nurmagomedov branded Conor McGregor the "greatest UFC fighter in Twitter history" in response to his rival's GOAT list posted on social media.

Former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion McGregor revealed his top four on Saturday, putting Anderson Silva at number one but making clear the Brazilian has some stiff competition to be considered the greatest - from the Irishman himself, of course.

"My array of finishes, across 3 divisions, with champion status in 2, I'm No.2. If not tied 1," McGregor wrote on Twitter. "However [I'm] still active, No.1 is fully secured by career end. And easily."

Georges St-Pierre and Jon Jones also made the list, but there was no place for undefeated lightweight champion Khabib.

Asked to explain the Russian's absence, McGregor replied: "Fancy record but a way to go before any GOAT entry.

"Only HL [highlight] is win over me with hangover and broken foot. Other than that, made Iaquinta's career with bad performance before Cerrone ended it again. 3rds to get Poirier out. 0 array of finishes. Bottled many bouts. Zero else of note."

Khabib, who defeated McGregor by submission at UFC 229 in 2018, countered with a tweet of his own, pointing out what he perceives to be fundamental flaws in McGregor's own case.

"You tapped out in featherweight, you tapped out in lightweight and you tapped in welterweight," Khabib wrote.

"You never defended title in the UFC or Cage Warriors, you gave up more than GSP, Spider and Bones all together. You greatest UFC fighter in Twitter history."

Jones also got involved in the debate, putting up a list of fighters to have the most wins in UFC title bouts - with McGregor obviously not among them - along with the comment: "Goat where you at."

The light-heavyweight champion also later quote-tweeted Khabib's post, adding: "Like I said I’ll let the fans do the debating for me, thanks Khabib."

Russia president Vladimir Putin has promised Khabib Nurmagomedov's father the "best medical treatment available", the UFC lightweight champion's manager said.

This week, Khabib confirmed his father, Abdulmanap, recently underwent heart surgery and was diagnosed with coronavirus.

Khabib announced his father is in a "critical condition", while his representative – Ali Abdelaziz – confirmed to ESPN he has been put into a medically induced coma in Moscow.

"I can confirm Khabib's father is in a medically induced coma," he told ESPN.

"Khabib has been in contact with Vladimir Putin over the last several days, and he has promised Khabib's father will receive the best medical treatment available.

"Khabib's number one message to people around the world right now is to stay at home, to prevent the spread of coronavirus."

In separate comments to MMAfighting.com, he added: "The president reached out to him a couple of times.

"It makes us a little bit at ease, but everything's in Allah's hands. Everything is in Allah's hands and we can get all the help we can."

UFC president Dana White and long-time rival Conor McGregor have been among those to offer their well wishes to Khabib.

The undefeated lightweight champion was due to defend his belt against Tony Ferguson last month but travel restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic prevented the bout from going ahead.

Ferguson this month lost a behind-closed-doors fight to Justin Gaethje, who is now expected to be Khabib's next opponent with White targeting a September showdown.

Khabib Nurmagomedov has confirmed his father is in a critical condition as he battles coronavirus.

The undefeated UFC lightweight champion explained Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov underwent heart surgery last year and has had another procedure after suffering complications from contracting COVID-19.

Khabib said he knows several others who have been affected and urged people to stay home during the global health crisis.

"In my personal case, I've had more than 20 people sick from my family," Nurmagomedov said in comments translated by ESPN. 

"More than 20 people were lying in the ICUs. And many of them are no longer among us. Many acquaintances have died, many parents of my relatives. Everybody is having a hard time dealing with it.

"There is a lot written on the internet about my father. My father, right now, is located in a hospital. He is in critical condition as a result of this virus. 

"It impacted his heart because last year he had a surgery there, and right now, they did another surgery. He is in a very difficult situation, very difficult. We are asking Allah that he returns him to us.

"Our learned Islamic scholars are telling us, 'Stay home, and do the holiday prayer. Don't have guests. Don't go yourselves as guests.' It is a very difficult situation."

Khabib, who received messages from long-time rival Conor McGregor and UFC president Dana White last week as reports emerged of his father's health battle, was due to fight Tony Ferguson last month.

However, travel restrictions prevented that bout from happening and Ferguson was beaten by Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249 on May 9.

It remains to be seen when Khabib can return to the Octagon, though White hopes to book a bout with Gaethje for September.

Conor McGregor sent a classy message to Khabib Nurmagomedov after reports the Russian's father and coach, Abdulmanap, was in a coma.

Abdulmanap, 57, was placed in a medically induced coma after complications from pneumonia, reports in Russia said on Wednesday.

McGregor threatened Khabib, the unbeaten lightweight champion, in an explosive Twitter rant on Monday, but put their feud aside to send his well-wishes to the Russian.

"Praying for the recovery of Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov," the Irishman wrote on Twitter.

"A man responsible for more world champions, across multiple fighting disciplines, than we even know. A true martial genius!

"Very saddened upon hearing this news tonight. Praying for the Nurmagomedov family at this time."

UFC president Dana White also offered his regards to Khabib and the Nurmagomedov family.

"Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov is a true martial artist who lives a life of pride, honour and respect," he said in a statement.

"He instilled those same values in his son, world champion Khabib, at an early age and was always in his corner throughout his career. I know how close Khabib is with his father and I'm saddened to hear about his current state.

"My thoughts are with Abdulmanap and the Nurmagomedov family as he continues to fight."

Khabib beat McGregor in an infamous bout in Las Vegas in October 2018, and is 28-0.

Dana White expects a UFC lightweight unification bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje to be staged on 'Fight Island' next month.

Gaethje turned his attention to a showdown with undisputed champion Khabib after beating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 last weekend to take the interim title.

Khabib was due to fight Ferguson in Brooklyn last month, but that battle could not go ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic - with the Russian stuck in Dagestan.

Gaethje grasped his chance to replace Khabib and he is now set to get his shot at the 31-year-old.

UFC boss White revealed what has been christened 'Fight Island' - a secretive location off the coast of the United States - remains under construction, but should be ready for the pair to lock horns by the end of June.

He told ESPN 1000 Chicago: "I don't know if it will be the first one [bout], but it will be on Fight Island, unless miraculously the world comes back together faster than I think it's gonna."

White added: "Hopefully it will be done by mid-June, and I could put on a fight that weekend that it's done or end of June."

Conor McGregor called out Gaethje with a social media rant on Monday, but White said the Irishman will have to wait.

He added: "Any time Conor McGregor is fighting, it's exciting, but yeah, I'm very excited for Gaethje versus Khabib.

"I think stylistically it's a great matchup. I'm looking forward to it."

Conor McGregor threatened Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje in an explosive Twitter rant on Monday.

McGregor, 31, was last in action in January, but is seemingly ready for a return, even if it is behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Irishman blasted both Khabib, the unbeaten lightweight champion, and Gaethje, who beat Tony Ferguson on Saturday.

"The fans make the sport! Watching the other night I was against going in without them," McGregor wrote on Twitter.

"But it will be my f****** pleasure to display the power I possess with zero background noise for them. Its [sic] me and Justin next as khabib is the biggest bottle fighter in the game. Guarantee it."

McGregor continued: "Justin, there is no danger in a man that hugs legs, we all know. Try and dance around what the real threat is here all you want. I am going to f****** butcher you. Your teeth. I'm going to put them on a f****** necklace. Speak on my skills as a father? You are f****** dead."

"Khabib you absolute embarrassment. Scurrying, hiding rat as usual. As I have said many times. As has been seen many times," McGregor continued.

"Through the pane of glass it was confirmed what was always known. "No comment" lol. An embarrassment to real fighting."

Khabib beat McGregor in an infamous bout in Las Vegas in October 2018, and is 28-0.

The Russian hit back on Twitter, and alongside a photo of their fight wrote: "Yes, we remember you, you was so nice that night, be same, don't be fake."

Tony Ferguson was still in the mood to dance despite showing the gruesome injuries he suffered in a brutal defeat to Justin Gaethje at UFC 249.

The American was stopped in the fifth round by an inspired Gaethje, who earned the interim lightweight belt as UFC returned behind closed doors in Jacksonville.

Ferguson, who was favourite heading into the fight, took plenty of punishment and was taken to hospital after the bout, with it later revealed he had suffered a broken eye socket.

But the 36-year-old still found time to dance prior to being discharged, posting his moves on Instagram accompanied with the caption: "When you're about to get discharged from the hospital".

Earlier, Ferguson had posted a picture with his wife Cristina Servin, which displayed the full extent of his facial injuries.

Ferguson was originally supposed to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov last month in Brooklyn but the suspension of UFC's operations due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that fight was cancelled.

Gaethje's shock win means he is now at the front of the queue to face Khabib, while it remains to be seen what Ferguson will do next.

Tony Ferguson was still in the mood to dance despite showing the gruesome injuries he suffered in a brutal defeat to Justin Gaethje at UFC 249.

The American was stopped in the fifth round by an inspired Gaethje, who earned the interim lightweight belt as UFC returned behind closed doors in Jacksonville.

Ferguson, who was favourite heading into the fight, took plenty of punishment and was taken to hospital after the bout, with it later revealed he had suffered a broken eye socket.

But the 36-year-old still found time to dance prior to being discharged, posting his moves on Instagram accompanied with the caption: "When you're about to get discharged from the hospital".

Earlier, Ferguson had posted a picture with his wife Cristina Servin, which displayed the full extent of his facial injuries.

Ferguson was originally supposed to take on Khabib Nurmagomedov last month in Brooklyn but the suspension of UFC's operations due to the coronavirus pandemic meant that fight was cancelled.

Gaethje's shock win means he is now at the front of the queue to face Khabib, while it remains to be seen what Ferguson will do next.

Khabib Nurmagomedov has sent a message of support to old rival Tony Ferguson after his UFC 249 defeat to Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje brutally stopped Ferguson in the final round to become the new interim lightweight champion in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday.

Ferguson was initially due to face Khabib in Brooklyn on April 18, but travel restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis prevented the Russian star from fighting in the United States.

It is now Gaethje who has his sights set on a showdown with unbeaten lightweight champion Khabib.

Ferguson accused Khabib of shying away from a fight with him before the American was beaten in his homeland, but the Russian was in no mood to rub salt into the wounds on Sunday.

He tweeted: "Whatever happened is in the past. Heads up Tony, I hope everything is good with you and your family. When your son grow [sic] up, he'll be proud with you. @TonyFergusonXT."

Ferguson also took to social media to offer his congratulations to Gaethje.

He tweeted: "Win or Lose Always Act Like A Champion. Just Wasn't My Night. Congrats @Justin_Gaethje On A Good Fight."

UFC returned behind closed doors in Jacksonville and the overriding feeling afterwards could be summed up using just one word - wow!

The coronavirus pandemic forced UFC 249 - and the original main event of Khabib Nurmagomedov versus Tony Ferguson in Brooklyn – to be called off.

Instead, Ferguson ended up facing Justin Gaethje, the man who had stepped in for the original April 18 date before operations were suspended by president Dana White due to the global health crisis.

And Gaethje caused an upset in monumental fashion when the pair finally met on Saturday, putting on a brutal display to stop Ferguson and claim the interim lightweight belt, leading him to immediately call out Khabib.

Before a strike had even landed in a thrilling main event, fans watching at home were reacting to Henry Cejudo's surprise retirement announcement after defending his bantamweight strap against Dominick Cruz.

After an action-packed card, it is time to look at the main takeaways from UFC 249.


GAETHJE EARNS SHOT AT KHABIB

Whatever the circumstances and whatever factors were against Ferguson, nothing should be taken away from Gaethje. An opportunity presented itself and he emphatically grasped it, putting on a punishing clinic against an all-time great. The landscape of a star-studded lightweight division was altered dramatically, too. The winner immediately called out unbeaten champion Khabib, who provides a fearsome mountain to climb but it is a shot Gaethje fully deserves following his latest success.

FERGUSON'S GALLANTRY PROVES COSTLY

It was a night that belonged to Gaethje, there is no doubting that. But Ferguson deserves immense credit for never shying away from a fight. For the majority of the past six months he has been preparing for the grappling skills of Khabib, as opposed to the striking ability of Gaethje. You also have to take into account Ferguson cut weight twice in the past four weeks – he was originally due to fight in April, of course - which is bound to have had an effect. Ferguson, though, is always ready and willing – yet perhaps that gallantry cost him in the end.

McGREGOR NEXT FOR TONY?

Gaethje's path looks pretty well set now for the next few months and, if travel restrictions are lifted enough, Khabib surely lies in wait before the end of 2020. Originally, UFC's plan appeared to be for Gaethje to face Conor McGregor, with the victor of that bout taking on whoever triumphed between Khabib and Ferguson. Ferguson has seen a showdown with Khabib scrapped five times and this defeat means that long-awaited dance may now never happen. But McGregor's plans are also up in the air now Gaethje looks out of the question for this year. It stands to reason, then, that UFC should look to book Ferguson against McGregor.

IS CEJUDO REALLY RETIRED?

On a card containing several jaw-dropping moments, bantamweight champion Cejudo threw a spanner in the works when he announced his retirement after scoring a contentious second-round stoppage over the returning Cruz. UFC boss White later said it was an option Cejudo had been pondering for some time, but that he did not know the announcement was coming at UFC 249. The thing is, in the MMA game, the lure of just one more fight often proves too much to resist. At 33, Cejudo still has plenty more to give so, while he may be retired now, keep watching this space…

Dana White wants to book a fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje "as soon as possible" and was caught off guard by the timing of Henry Cejudo's retirement announcement.

Gaethje massively upset the odds to defeat Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in Jacksonville on Saturday to win the interim lightweight belt.

UFC made its comeback behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic and in a brutal main event Gaethje stopped his opponent in the final round, with Ferguson having absorbed plenty of punishment.

After the fight, Gaethje called out Khabib, who was originally slated to face Ferguson, and the lightweight champion later hinted on social media he was ready for the bout.

Speaking about that possibility, UFC president White said: "Khabib tweeted that he's ready to go this summer.

"So, we will get back home next week and figure out what's next and get this fight together as soon as possible."

On the main event, White pondered whether Ferguson having to cut weight twice in the space of a month played a part in an off night for the veteran but paid tribute to his heart.

"As a promoter, you can't go out and guarantee people are going to see anything. In my 20 years of doing this, it is maybe only the second time I've guaranteed you that the main event would be incredible," he added.

"The fight was really good. I don't want to take anything away from Gaethje – he fought an incredible fight – but I thought Tony looked off, looked slow. I would have to imagine that cutting weight twice in a month will affect you. I don't if that was it or what.

"But the guy [Ferguson] isn't human. Nobody takes Gaethje's punches like that – nobody I've seen since I've been watching him fight. 

"Tony Ferguson is a special human being. Tony took a lot of damage tonight. He usually knocks people unconscious with some of those shots."

Gaethje's win was not the only shock of the night. Cejudo defended his bantamweight belt with a contentious second-round TKO victory over returning great Dominick Cruz before announcing he was retiring.

White said Cejudo had been considering the idea but did not know it was coming this soon.

"He's been talking about retirement with us for the past several months. I didn't know he was going to do it tonight, but he's been talking about it," White said. 

"If you start talking about retirement in this business, it's probably a good idea. 

"Although, I think he's one of the best in the world and looked incredible. Cruz is a bad-ass fighter with a very high fight IQ and very motivated to win. Tonight was a big win."

Dana White declared "the system worked" after staging UFC 249, clearing the way for professional sports to "come back safely" amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The event - originally scheduled for the middle of April - was held behind closed doors in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday, with all involved subject to stringent testing.

Ronaldo 'Jacare' Souza returned a positive result, along with two of his cornermen, and while asymptomatic, was subsequently removed from the card. The Brazilian had been scheduled to face Uriah Hall in a middleweight bout.

White believes the situation with Souza demonstrated just why the protocols were put in place - and promised UFC will learn from the experience and improve in the future.

"The whole world is weird; this whole event is weird. We live in a different world than we did two months ago, and the bottom line is the system worked," he said in the post-event press conference.

"The system is that you want to find people. What you don't want to do is say two days after the fight is that Jacare tested positive, you know. It worked – the system worked that we put in place.

"Without sounding like a jackass, we're really good at what we do. The way this went, we will just get better.

"We will be better by Wednesday, then better by Saturday, then after Saturday we will start to catch our stride and get this thing dialled in and figured out.

"The longer this goes, the better testing technology will get, and the faster it will get. We are going to prove by next Saturday that professional sports can come back safely."

White later added: "When we are testing all of our employees and our fighters, we will find out who has this thing [coronavirus] and will help them.

"You don't want people to test positive, we want everyone to test negative, but this week we are going to be doing 11,000 plus tests. Somebody was going to be positive – it's impossible not to be [the case]."

White also revealed that other sports associations had been in touch with him to ask about the processes involved in UFC 249, while he was also congratulated on his work by United States president Donald Trump.

"We can share what we learned here with other sports leagues, who are reaching out and asking," the UFC boss said.

"Sports leagues - and states - are asking us. A lot can be learned by what we are doing here, not just for professional sports but sending people back to work, lots of other things in life."

On Trump, who recorded a video message that was aired during the broadcast, White commented: "He wants sports back. He wants to do it in phases and he thinks sports should come back first, then figure out how to get people back to work and kids back in school."

"We came out and were first and he congratulated us on that. I thought it was nice of him."

As for the action inside the octagon, Justin Gaethje defeated Tony Ferguson to become interim lightweight champion, while Henry Cejudo announced his shock retirement after retaining the bantamweight title against Dominick Cruz.

Justin Gaethje is eyeing a Khabib Nurmagomedov clash, insisting there is "no other challenge I want right now" after crushing Tony Ferguson at UFC 249.

Gaethje became the interim lightweight champion after scoring a brutal final-round stoppage against Ferguson in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday.

The UFC made its long-awaited return behind closed doors amid the coronavirus pandemic, which prevented the event from taking place on the original date of April 18 in Brooklyn.

Travel restrictions also stopped unbeaten lightweight holder Khabib from fighting in the United States, leading Gaethje to fill the Russian's void against Ferguson.

After snapping Ferguson's 12-fight winning streak and leaving his fellow American bloodied, Gaethje (22-2) turned his attention to Khabib.

"Khabib is the best in the world," Gaethje said in the octagon afterwards.

"I've been working since I was four for challenges like this and I'm happy to represent the United States of America against Dagestan or Russia's best.

"He's 28-0 and there's no other challenge I want right now. I want to fight him."

Gaethje stepped up to meet Ferguson in the octagon and he dished out relentless punishment to stun the former interim holder in a wild contest.

Ferguson was left bloodied and bruised as a jab to the head shocked the veteran, prompting the referee to crown Gaethje winner by TKO in the fifth round.

Gaethje was the aggressor from the outset in the main event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, where Ferguson – while absorbing all the strikes – took one too many strikes to the head, body and legs.

"I told my coaches, 'You're not gonna like it, but I'm ready to die tonight,'" Gaethje, who extended his winning streak to four, said afterwards. "That's the mentality you have to come in there with."

Ferguson (25-4) added: "Justin is a tough son of a b****, I'll be real. I was prepared for Khabib, not a striker."

It's UFC but not as we know it.

The coronavirus pandemic is drastically changing the landscape of sport and the world of UFC is no different.

UFC 249 was originally due to take place in the middle of April but that event and several others scheduled to take place after were unable to go ahead as operations were suspended.

But president Dana White was determined to forge ahead and the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, will host a rearranged behind-closed-doors UFC 249 on Saturday.

Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will battle it out for the interim lightweight title, while Henry Cejudo meets the returning legend Dominick Cruz for the bantamweight strap.

Here, we answer the big questions ahead of Saturday's action…


IS IT SAFE TO FIGHT?

About as safe as it can be in the current world climate. White said last month "it's not going to be cheap. It's going to be expensive" so UFC will be doing everything they can to ensure a safe environment for the show. The event has the backing of the state of Florida and, crucially, ESPN – whose intervention was part of the reason an April 18 date was kiboshed. As a sign it can be done, WWE has filmed shows out of Orlando without fans including its flagship pay-per-view Wrestlemania. That's not to say it is completely risk free but UFC is pulling out all the stops.


WHAT PROTOCOLS ARE IN PLACE?

First and foremost, and somewhat self-explanatory, no fans will be attendance at the venue. All the fighters will be subjected to stringent daily testing at a sealed off hotel, which will extend to team members and all staff working on the event. According to ESPN, UFC is to administer the diagnostic swap coronavirus test and the antibody test, while fighters will be encouranged not to mingle in large groups. Individual workout rooms are to be provided to ensure fighters can train and cut weight, and each will be equipped with mats, mat sanitiser and a personal sauna. Meals will be provided for those who want it at scheduled times and outside hotel room doors.


HOW SIGNIFICANT IS THE FERGUSON-GAETHJE FIGHT?

In terms of the lightweight division, extremely. The interim belt will be on the line in the co-main event and the winner will likely be next in line to fight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov. Ferguson of course was supposed to be fighting Khabib in Brooklyn before travel restrictions prevented the champion from entering the United States and the show was scrapped altogether. It was the fifth time a scheduled bout between the two had been cancelled but an opportunity has presented itself for Gaethje. If he can pull off a huge win then the division's path will have changed drastically. If Ferguson wins then surely he and Khabib will finally meet in the Octagon further down the road.


IS CRUZ THE RIGHT OPPONENT FOR CEJUDO?

Cejudo is the kind of guy you either love or hate – there's not much middle ground. His achievements should not be underplayed, though. This is a guy who four years ago suffered a humbling first-round knockout defeat to Demetrious Johnson, only to go away, get better and dethrone the all-time great from the flyweight throne in August 2018. He went on to defeat TJ Dillashaw, who stepped down a division, and then became a two-belt champion by overcoming Marlon Moraes to claim the bantamweight strap almost a year ago. But since then Cejudo's motives have been questionable, calling out legends such as Frankie Edgar, Urijah Faber and Jose Aldo. Dominick Cruz is considered by most as the greatest bantamweight of all time but he has not fought since dropping the belt in a shock loss to Cody Garbrandt in December 2016 with injuries cruelly denying him the opportunity to work his way back to the top. At this stage it's hard to see Cruz as a title contender and Cejudo might be better served proving himself against a high-ranked challenger such as Aljamain Sterling.


WHERE'S AMANDA NUNES?

Two-weight champion Amanda Nunes was said to have had a verbal agreement to defend her featherweight belt against Felicia Spencer as part of a co-main event. However, the brilliant Brazilian – who is on a 10-fight winning streak – stated last month she would not be part of a May 9 card. Nunes explained that she wanted a full camp to prepare for a title defence and that she would reassess the situation for a possible fight in June.


WHAT ELSE IS ON THE CARD?

In a stacked card, Francis Ngannou will take on Jairzinho Rozenstruik in a heavyweight bout that was due to headline UFC: Colombus before coronavirus got in the way. A win for either would enhance their claims to a title shot. Also on the main card, Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar will meet in a featherweight fight, while Greg Hardy and Yorgan de Castro wage war in the heavyweight division. And among the prelims, long-time fan favourites Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis will face off - the former having lost to Conor McGregor as recently as January.

When opportunity knocks in UFC you had better be ready to answer and Justin Gaethje has one hell of a chance to shake up a stacked lightweight division against Tony Ferguson on Saturday.

Things were supposed to be very different. For one thing Ferguson was finally meant to dance with long-term foe Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title in front a packed-out crowd at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on April 18.

But the coronavirus pandemic left champion Khabib unable to travel to the United States and, after Gaethje had been drafted in as an opponent, the plug was finally pulled on the event when ESPN and parent company Disney intervened.

Yet here we are just a few weeks later and the show will go on, albeit in vastly different circumstances.

UFC president Dana White confirmed last month UFC 249 will go ahead without fans on May 9 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, with only essential personnel permitted to attend.

Ferguson remains top of the bill and will go up against fellow American Gaethje for the interim lightweight belt in a bout that can alter the course of a division swimming in talent.

As well as unbeaten champion Khabib, the return of Conor McGregor throws a monumental spanner into the works, while Dustin Poirier – who may have fallen short in his bid to defeat Khabib – remains an active threat.

Here's a recap of how things have played out at 145lbs in the past few months…


MCGREGOR RETURN SHAKES THINGS UP

Love him or hate him, McGregor is money and the Irishman being active can only be a good thing for UFC and the bank balances of those facing him. The former two-weight champion appears to have rediscovered his love of the MMA game and he set out a three-fight plan for 2020 (which admittedly appears unlikely to be fulfilled now given the global health crisis). The first of those resulted in a convincing first-round stoppage of UFC legend Donald Cerrone and the plan, you would assume, was likely to face Gaethje before building towards a huge rematch with Khabib. Regardless of how the next chapter in this division plays out, an active, healthy and focused McGregor certainly makes this interesting.


FERGUSON-KHABIB CANCELLED AGAIN

It was always hard to look beyond a McGregor win given Cerrone's advancing years and the next part of the lightweight story was meant to be Khabib and Ferguson finally going head-to-head in the Octagon. On four prior occasions these two huge names in the world of MMA were booked to fight only for a combination of injuries and rotten luck to deny fans this dream encounter. So, when the coronavirus outbreak meant the bout was scuppered for a fifth time it did little to change the perception of Khabib-Ferguson being a cursed fight. It would be a crying shame should these two never meet and surely one day their paths will cross but things may yet play out a little differently…


SURPRISE OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR GAETHJE

White likes to reward fighters who are active and willing to go at short notice. Gaethje has certainly proven himself to be just that in recent weeks and that attitude could pay off in a huge way if he can find a way past Ferguson. Gaethje is ranked fourth in the lightweight division after rebounding from damaging defeats to Eddie Alvarez and Poirier with a trio of impressive wins over James Vick, Edson Barbosa and Cerrone. The natural order of things really should have been for Gaethje to face McGregor and the winner of that fight to meet the victor of Khabib-Ferguson. But we are where we are and Gaethje has a monumental opportunity to stake his claim as the next in line to face Khabib and truly mix things up in the lightweight division.

Page 1 of 3
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.