UFC boss Dana White says Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje on April 18 is '100 per cent on'

Tuesday 7 April 2020 09:11, UK

Justin Gaethje reacts prior to the lightweight fight against Dustin Poirier
Image: Justin Gaethje is now scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson on April 18

UFC boss Dana White insists Tony Ferguson's major title fight will get the go-ahead this month after Justin Gaethje was named as the stand-in opponent.

Gaethje replaces lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 249 which is set to go ahead on April 18, despite being moved from the original venue in Brooklyn, New York City, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The UFC president named the contest and date on his Twitter account just 24 hours after confirming that Nurmagomedov would be ruled out of the bout and a replacement would be sought.

The UFC boss has since confirmed that the process of acquiring a "private island" to host the fight and other events on the sport's calendar are progressing.

Gaethje's bout will go ahead according to UFC boss Dana White
Image: Gaethje's bout will go ahead, according to UFC boss Dana White

The bigger logistical challenge facing UFC organisers is how to stage an event despite widespread travel restrictions being in place.

With countries locking down borders, White is hopeful he will get his stable of non-US based fighters back in action, albeit without fans in attendance.

"I locked this venue up for two months," White told TMZ Sports.

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"I have this venue for two months, and I'm setting up shop here. We're going to be pumping out fights every week."

"I'm also a day or two away from securing a private island, we're getting the infrastructure put in now, so I'm going to start doing the international fights, too," White said.

He also confirmed that all fighters, support staff as well as UFC crew would be regularly tested for the virus.

"I won't be able to get all of the international fighters into the U.S. so I'm going to start flying them off into the island and do international fights there," White said.

"As of April 18, the UFC is back up and running."

Khabib Nurmagomedov
Image: Khabib Nurmagomedov made the decision to return home to Dagestan

It comes as Nurmagomedov, who beat Conor McGregor in 2018, returned to Dagestan from the United States as the coronavirus outbreak worsened, and would have encountered travel restrictions which have been imposed in his homeland.

It effectively spelt the end of the Russian's attempts to fight Ferguson, and led to McGregor accusing Nurmagomedov of 'chickening out' of a bout that has never taken place, despite being booked to take place five times since December 2015.

Nurmagomedov and No 1 contender Ferguson have been due to meet on a series of occasions, but the fight has never taken place because of illness and injury and now the coronavirus pandemic.

Ferguson will now take on his 31-year-old fellow American Gaethje, who is ranked as fourth in the list of contenders, for the interim lightweight title.