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UFC 249: Tony Ferguson to face Justin Gaethje for interim title

Tony Ferguson poses during a ceremonial weigh-in

 Tony Ferguson poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for UFC 229 at T-Mobile Arena on Oct. 5, 2018 in Las Vegas. Credit: Getty Images/Ethan Miller

There is a signed main event for UFC 249 on Saturday, April 18, when Tony Ferguson is scheduled to face Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title.

"The fight is signed and is 100% ON LIVE on ESPN somewhere on EARTH!!!!," UFC president Dana White tweeted Monday afternoon.

Where that fight will take place remains unclear.

White said the fight will air on ESPN+ pay-per-view. It is assumed that no fans will be allowed in the venue to watch the fight.  

Ferguson will face Gaethje in the new main event. Ferguson was supposed to challenge undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the title, but Nurmagomedov left his training facility in San Jose, California, last week and returned to his home in Dagestan, Russia, which has banned traveling out of the country as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Ferguson (25-3) is a former interim lightweight champion, having beaten Kevin Lee at UFC 216 on Oct. 7, 2017, to win the belt. He has fought twice since then and is on a 12-fight win streak.

"I’m terrified and I [expletive] love it," Gaethje tweeted about facing Ferguson.

Gaethje (21-2) has three straight first-round knockout wins, beating James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone.

If the event goes on as now scheduled, it will be the UFC's first event since a March 14 fight night in Brasilia, Brazil, that took place without fans. The promotion's next three events — March 21 in London, March 28 and April 11 in Las Vegas — all were postponed amid the coronavirus pandemic that has led to schools being closed, non-essential businesses being shut down, major professional and college sports being postponed or canceled, a growing number of unemployment filings and a major slowdown to global economies.

UFC 249 originally was scheduled for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, but the New York State Athletic Commission said on March 18 that the event could not take place there after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo banned large gatherings of 50 or more people.

White was among the sports executives and commissioners on a conference call Saturday with President Donald Trump to discuss the situation.

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