USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie rankings, March 31: Is lightweight getting a new look?
If one thing is certain right now, it’s that nothing is certain.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on every aspect of the world’s global operations, and the sporting world is no different. Both the UFC and Bellator have canceled events, and the PFL has been forced to delay its 2020 season. Next up on the chopping block is a long-awaited UFC lightweight title fight between current champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and former interim titleholder Tony Ferguson.
Ranked in the top two slots of the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie MMA lightweight rankings, the two were expected to face off at UFC 249 on April 18, but that card taking place anywhere in the world seems like anything but a guarantee, even as UFC president Dana White does his best to try and keep it together. Nurmagomedov is currently in Russia, where he faces an international travel ban that could keep him in the country.
And, of course, White hasn’t even announced if he has a location for the card secured.
No. 4 Justin Gaethje has been mentioned as a possible replacement opponent for Ferguson, but “The Highlight” has often mentioned his disdain for taking short-notice fights, and he’s been linked to a summer fight with No. 5 Conor McGregor, as well.
No. 3 Dustin Poirier has also mentioned his willingness to step up on short notice, but he’s been expected to face No. 7 Dan Hooker on May 16 in California – of course, assuming that fight card still takes place, as well.
In the meantime, No. 6 Charles Oliveira is due for a big fight after his recent win over Kevin Lee – the main event of a March 14 card in Brasilia that, right now registers “Do Bronx” as the last UFC fighter to pick up a win in the octagon.
And, of course, if there was ever a fighter that would be willing to fight during a global pandemic, perhaps on an aircraft carrier out in international waters or maybe in a C-17 flying a few miles up over the Earth’s surface, No. 7 Donald Cerrone probably knows a guy.
In other words, much like everything else in our world, who really knows what’s going to happen next? While we wait, check out the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMA Junkie rankings, which, for now, look a lot like last week’s rankings, as well.