One of the most anticipated and enigmatic fights in UFC history has endured yet another plot twist.
UFC interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson suffered a knee injury while walking and will be unable to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event of UFC 223 on Saturday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The initial reports on Sunday were met with a great deal of skepticism because it was April 1 and the bout has already been cancelled three times in the past.
It proved all too real, however.
The event may not take a massive hit because featherweight champion Max Holloway has agreed to step in on less than a week’s notice to fight Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title.
“He’s a stud,” White told ESPN of Holloway accepting the bout on short notice. “The guy hasn’t lost a fight since 2013, and that was a decision to Conor McGregor.
“He’s the type of guy that steps up for opportunities like this. And when you think about it, if he wins this fight, other than Conor McGregor, he will be the only guy to hold two belts at the same time.”
Ferguson’s interim title will be rescinded and lightweight champion Conor McGregor will be formally stripped of the belt when the bell rings to start the bout between Nurmagomedov and Holloway.
McGregor was also the featherweight champion, but was stripped of that when he moved up to win the lightweight belt and didn’t appear to have any plan to fight at 145 pounds again. He has not fought in an MMA bout of any kind since winning the 155-pound title in November 2016.
McGregor did express interest in stepping in on late notice to fight Frankie Edgar at UFC 222 last month, but White told ESPN he didn’t reach out to the Irish superstar this time.
“I don’t think Conor McGregor could make the weight on six days notice. That’s a tough weight cut for him,” White said. “And Conor is not the guy I want to throw in as a late replacement fighter. He’s a guy I want to make a fight with and have the right amount of time to promote the fight.
“I think Conor could return in September, and it could be against one of these guys.”
White also indicated he may be done trying to book a fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov after the fourth cancellation despite the intense amount of interest in the matchup.
Each fighter has now pulled out of the bout twice.