The UFC returns to Fight Island in Abu Dhabi following this week’s UFC Fight Night: Covington vs. Woodley at the Apex in Las Vegas. The promotion’s next stint on Fight Island is bookended by pay-per-views.
UFC 253 on Sept. 26 features a long awaited middleweight showdown between champion Israel Adesanya and top contender Paulo Costa. UFC 254 is headlined by lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. interim titleholder Justin Gaethje on Oct. 24, before the promotion returns to Las Vegas to close out the year.
Nurmagomedov has had a history of occasional fight cancelations because of one reason or another, not to mention that his fight with Gaethje is the main event. With so much at stake, UFC officials are want to have a back-up plan in place should either fighter have to withdraw because of COVID-19 or any other reason.
UFC president Dana White had been touting a bout between former interim champions Tony Ferguson and Dustin Poirier as the promotion’s Plan A and Plan B should one of the main eventers not make it to the cage on Oct. 24.
Poirier, however, publicly commented that he couldn’t come to terms with the UFC and left his fight camp in Florida to return home to Louisiana.
White was asked following Tuesday night’s Dana White’s Contender Series if he though the Ferguson vs. Poirier fight might come back together. He was adamant that it would not.
“No, I told you, we got a (new) fight (for Ferguson),” he said, before admitting that Ferguson hadn’t yet agreed to the bout.
“Not yet, no. He will though. I don’t see Tony not accepting a fight.”
Though White didn’t want to disparage Poirier, he wouldn’t speculate as to why they couldn’t come to terms for the Ferguson bout, other than to say that Poirier simply didn’t want the fight.
“Listen, I like Dustin,” White said. “I’m not going to sit up here and say anything negative about Dustin. He’s a great kid. I don’t know if it was he didn’t want to fight in Abu Dhabi or what his deal was, he didn’t want to fight. There’s a lot of different ways to turn down a fight.
“Negotiating yourself out of one is one of the ways you can do it. So for whatever reason, he didn’t want to take this fight. Only he knows that.”
Dustin Poirier insists he wants to fight Tony Ferguson
Poirier late Tuesday countered White’s comments, simply tweeting, “I WANT THE FIGHT.”
Like White, however, Poirier has not detailed where the disconnect is other than seemingly money.
“UFC and I didn’t come to terms,” Poirier told ESPN a week ago. “I will not be fighting on Oct. 24. I just need to be compensated if they want this fight. Simple as that. I’m a prize fighter and the prize needs to be right.”
Who will Tony Ferguson fight at UFC 254?
There are few legitimate options for Ferguson that make much sense. Top 10 ranked lightweights Dan Hooker, Paul Felder, and Charles Oliveira make the most sense, but there is a wildcard.
Former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler is currently a free agent. White has shown interest in signing him. Could it be that the UFC might make a surprise move and entice Ferguson into welcoming Chandler to the Octagon at UFC 254? Only time will tell.