There is a ton of hype surrounding the main event of UFC 223 and for good reason. Two of the best in the world are expected to throw down for a belt that has not been defended in nearly a year and a half. This is not the first time these two men have been scheduled to fight, however. The pair has been booked four times since 2015 but each of the first three times, it has fallen through. These men were destined to step into the cage together eventually and it only seems appropriate to have a belt on the line. Just under two weeks out from the fight, fans are cautiously optimistic that Ferguson vs. Khabib is finally about to happen.
The first attempts
The first two times these two were scheduled to fight, there was no hardware on the line. In 2015, they were both up and comers on impressive winning streaks. Rafael dos Anjos held the lightweight belt at the time and was scheduled to defend it against Donald Cerrone. Meanwhile, the rest of the division had to shake itself out to find the next contender. Ferguson vs. Khabib was one of the biggest matchups in determining a future contender but when Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced to pull out due to an injury, the fight was scrapped. Ferguson faced Edson Barboza instead and defeat him with a D'arce choke to raise his stock in the division.
When Khabib recovered, the fight was scheduled again for April 2016. As fate would have it, Ferguson was forced to pull out due to water in his lungs just 11 days before the bout. Darrell Horcher took the fight at a 160 pound catchweight on short notice and was promptly steamrolled by Khabib in the second round. Ferguson recovered and went on to defeat Lando Vannata and Rafael dos Anjos in 2016 while Eddie Alvarez held the belt. Nurmagomedov submitted Michael Johnson that year on the same card that Alvarez lost the belt to Conor McGregor on. The Ferguson vs. Khabib fight would not be spoken of again until UFC 209 in March 2017.
With belts on the line
The third installment of our failed Ferguson vs. Khabib matches was scheduled for UFC 209 in Las Vegas in March 2017. This time, the fight was to serve as a co-main event with an interim title belt on the line. Conor McGregor had won the belt in November and Ferguson and Khabib had emerged as the clear top contenders. In yet another terrible turn of luck, Khabib was forced to pull out just a day before the event due to a hospitalization from weight cutting complications. It is rumored that his liver began to shut down, rendering competing impossible. He bounced back from that scary incident to dominate Edson Barboza while Ferguson won the interim belt seven months later by submitting Kevin Lee. Both men remained as the clear top two lightweight contenders.
With Ferguson and Khabib both on massive winning streaks and the champion showing no signs of defending his belt, making this fight for the fourth time became the only option. Ferguson is always ready to fight and Khabib has a new nutritionist that made his weight cut infinitely easier his last time out. There is no excuse for the fight not to happen this time but MMA fans know to hold their breath in anticipation. These men have been putting together gameplans on how to beat the other for almost three years now while looking untouchable in the fights they have taken. If Ferguson vs. Khabib finally becomes a reality at UFC 223, it should be well worth the wait.
Who do you have winning Ferguson vs. Khabib? Leave a comment below.