In 2020, a year that saw so many fight cancellations, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson was the biggest fight we lost.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson grabs FanSided MMA’s award for the Biggest Fight We Lost in 2020. Not only is this a fight which we didn’t get the chance to see this calendar year, it is a fight that has been booked five times since 2015 and has fallen through in some way each and every time. For what it’s worth, this matchup could win this very award every year since 2015.
Combat sports fans across the globe would have gladly given up many other anticipated matchups just to see these two finally go at it, but alas, the fight never materialized. Whether it be injury, illness or a global pandemic, this fight has been cursed since day one.
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson were once again booked to fight in April at UFC 249, but plans were derailed as the Covid-19 pandemic forced most countries in the world to shut down. Ultimately, Nurmagomedov was unable to venture back to the United States due to tight travel restrictions, leaving the UFC no choice but to replace him with Justin Gaethje. Ferguson would go on to lose to Gaethje, thus eliminating him as Nurmagomedov’s next opponent.
Ferguson did not have to take the Gaethje fight, but he’s not the type of guy to sit on the shelf if a fight presents itself. Had Ferguson decided to wait it out and fight Nurmagomedov at a later date, we may have finally seen the bout.
Either way, we may never get to see this fight happen in the Octagon. Following his lightweight title defense over the interim champion Gaethje in October, Nurmagomedov announced his retirement in an emotional in-cage interview after the fight. At 29-0 and 32 years old, he really has nothing left to prove. While Nurmagomedov has yet to officially announce his retirement and relinquish the belt, the consensus is that he will indeed retire and focus on other personal and professional endeavors. It was even reported earlier this month that Nurmagomedov had purchased the Gorilla Fighting Championship for $1 million. If that doesn’t hint at retirement, I’m not sure what does.
Could he stay and fight Georges St.-Pierre or rematch Conor McGregor? Sure. But in reality, he has done more than enough and is a first-ballot UFC Hall of Famer.
On the other side you have Ferguson. He did not look the same against Charles Oliveira at UFC 256 following the beating he took from Gaethje at UFC 249. Whether its wear and tear, old age, skill, or all of the above, Ferguson is out of form and slowly falling down the UFC rankings, currently sitting at No. 5. It would seem that the likelihood these two eventually fight is essentially zero.
Whether it be a non-title bout or for the undisputed lightweight championship, all fans wanted to see Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson. And like all good things, this matchup included, must come to an end. These two men have brought fans so many incredible moments over the years, it’s just a shame they were never able to close the cage doors behind them on fight night.
Perhaps there is an alternate reality somewhere that saw the pair fight a spectacular trilogy and got paid big money to do so.