In an alternate universe, MMA fans will be watching Tony vs Khabib on April 18. In this universe, the odds of that happening look slim at the moment. But slim is certainly better than non-existent. And that gives us hope.
The truth is that the levels of animosity is not like what it was at UFC 229. However, the tension is still there. This time most fans are united in their tension just to see the bout take place. The booking at UFC 249 was the fifth time the fight has been booked. And it looks like a global pandemic got in the way this time.
It’s an interesting story to say the least. One way of looking at a story is through the perspective of a three act structure.
The first part of any story usually tells us what’s up. If we are telling the saga of Tony v Khabib, we need to first figure out who the heroes are. Well two of the heroes are obvious. Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson are the central players in this story. But this isn’t the story of a rivalry. This is the story of the fight that is yet to come to pass.
Enter Dana White and the UFC team. They spend a whole lot of time running around getting people to fight each other. Dana seems to have a talent for taking and managing risk. He wins big at gambling tables, often at the expense of the house. He puts on fights and shows that other businessmen deem too risky. Several ground breakers like Royce Gracie, Ken Shamrock, Chuck Liddell, Forest Griffin come and go. MMA becomes a global sport and things are looking rosy.
The UFC has established themselves as a business. But the thing with starting a business is that you then have to run the business. That means making money. That means getting viewership. Suddenly, TV deals and reality shows come to the forefront. Fighters realize more and more that they need to sell. Soon they are spending time on social media. All of this is good news, but then the critics arrive. So do the cynics. Newcomers and outsiders can’t help but draw comparisons to professional wrestling. People start questioning the validity of the sport.
Fortunately, our two heroes are up to the challenge. Khabib shows that he is nearly invincible. Opponents of all kinds are put in front of him, but the Dagestani over powers them. Every single one of them.
Tony Ferguson proves to be equally formidable. He goes on a winning streak. Tony’s fighting style is unusual. His training even more so.
The obvious next move is to make the two of them face off. So they try it. It falls through. This happens three more times. The fans are now downcast. It looks like we may never see this fight happen.
We are now in the third act. The coronavirus has brought the sporting world to its knees. Much larger bodies are closed. The NFL, NBA, MLB, Cricket, Football all cancelled. But Dana and the UFC are still holding out hope. Is this the scene where they pull off a miracle? With less than two weeks left, the world’s biggest MMA promotion may just shock the world.
Let us look at the good and the bad news so far. First, the bad news. Khabib is back in Russia. Tony is in the USA. Flights in and out of Russia are stopped. No location for the event has been confirmed. The blame game on who pulled out has started. Conor McGregor chipped in too.
Now the good news. The UFC maybe more flexible logistically than the other sports mentioned above. The location may be almost done. Private jets are still allowed in and out of Russia. And Dana did mention that there were multiple locations being discussed.
How will all this play out? Hard to say. But maybe someday they’ll make a movie about it.