Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will face off for the interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 249 in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday night.
The UFC will put on one of the first major sporting events in the world since early March, with a full card of 12 fights on tap for the show.
Ferguson Done Waiting for Nurmagomedov
Initially, the UFC planned to have Ferguson (25-3) challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title. But with Nurmagomedov unable to travel from Russia, Gaethje (21-2) stepped up to create what should be an explosive main event between two, top-five contenders.
Ferguson rides a 12-fight winning streak into the bout. While a title tilt with Nurmagomedov seems cursed – this is the fifth time one of the two fighters has pulled out – Gaethje is a worthy and dangerous opponent, and Ferguson says he’s tired of waiting for a shot at the champion.
“I’m going to be real, Khabib doesn’t f—ing even exist to me right now,” Ferguson said during the UFC 249 teleconference on Tuesday. “I’m defending my belt for the third time. This is for the real belt, this is not for the interim title. This is for the championship.”
According to UFC president Dana White, Nurmagomedov will still be in line to fight the winner of Saturday’s main event. That makes this a huge fight for Gaethje as well, and the 31-year-old says he plans on leaving everything in the Octagon on Saturday.
UFC 249 Odds (Main Card)
- Tony Ferguson (-178) vs. Justin Gaethje (+150)
- Henry Cejudo (-225) vs. Dominick Cruz (+186)
- Francis Ngannou (-310) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+250)
- Jeremy Stephens (+205) vs. Calvin Kattar (-250)
- Greg Hardy (-205) vs. Yorgan de Castro (+172)
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
“I’m going to fight until I’m finished or until Tony’s finished,” Geathje said on the UFC’s “Countdown” show. “That’s what I do and that’s what I’ve always done. I possess the power to turn his lights off, and I believe I will.”
Gaethje’s comments are justified, as few expect this fight to go the distance over five rounds. FanDuel Sportsbook sees Ferguson as a -178 favorite in the bout, but Gaethje (+150) should have his chances to end things early. On the other hand, the longer the fight goes, the more likely it becomes that Ferguson will walk away with the win.
Cruz Four Years Gone
The UFC 249 co-main event is a true title fight between bantamweight champion Henry Cejudo (15-2) and Dominick Cruz (22-2). This marks Cruz’s first fight since 2016 when he lost the bantamweight title to Cody Garbrandt.
Injuries have sidelined Cruz since then, but he returns to the Octagon as a legitimate title contender, and he says he’s ready to regain his crown.
“I feel like money,” Cruz said during Thursday’s virtual media day. “My body is healthy. I was fighting with a shoulder injury for about three title fights, I had that shoulder injury. I just put stem cells in my body and just tried to make do. I was constantly aching, constantly sore. I don’t have to do any of that anymore.”
Cejudo (-225) comes into the bout as a worthy favorite. While both men have the ability to hurt each other in the striking game, Cejudo’s Olympic wrestling background should give him the edge, and Cruz (+186) may still be rusty.
Other fights at UFC 249 include a heavyweight clash between Francis Ngannou and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, as well as a welterweight battle between Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis that will headline the preliminary card.