UFC 249, the first mixed martial arts pay-per-view event to air during a pandemic, had Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje face off for the interim lightweight title. Gaethje has held gold in mixed martial arts before, it was only a matter of time before he would stake his claim as one of the best lightweights in the UFC. Also, Henry Cejudo was able to derail the return of Dominick Cruz and retain his title, only to announce his retirement.
There was a lot to take away from UFC 249, especially since it was the first big event to happen during a pandemic. Here are a few things to take away from the event.
In the past, days before a UFC pay-per-view meant keeping an eye out for what could possibly negatively affect a card. That was more the case having an event going on during a global pandemic. While COVID-19 testing was said to be available for those that were at UFC 249, time will only tell how safe it truly was. Both testing to see if they were infected and an antibody test were administered and results were said to come back in “minutes” according to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. Check out Ferguson being tested:
On Friday, Jacare Souza and his cornermen yielded a positive result for COVID-19 and his bout was removed from the card. He was supposed to face Uriah Hall, who wished him well after the news.
A different pay-per-view experience
Part of the safety protocols in place had the broadcast team of Jon Anik, Joe Rogan, and Daniel Cormier sit far from each other and the cage to do their duties. Joe Rogan said on the broadcast during the fight between Sam Alvey and Ryan Spann, “I can’t believe how eerie this feels.” At the end of the fight, Rogan was in the cage interviewing the winner, after it was stated by UFC executive vice president of production and operations, Craig Borsari that he would do them with the athlete in a separate location.
You called down the thunder, well now you got it
Francis Ngannou made short work of Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Both men seemed to swing for the fences as the round began, but Ngannou’s well-known power was very present in Jacksonville. If Cormier and Miocic can’t get something going, it may be time to bring Ngannou to the table again. Rozenstruik called Ngannou out and Ngannou made sure he regretted it.
There’s something to be said for Henry Cejudo’s preparation as a world-class, Olympic athlete. Dominick Cruz’s footwork is his best weapon and Cejudo immediately worked to diminish that with leg kicks. He was able to drop Cruz with a knee as Cruz went for a takedown, while the stoppage was disputed, the loss still stands. With the victory, Cejudo announced his retirement but with Cejudo, you never really know. He did want to fight Valentina Shevchenko too.
Gaethje was called in at the last minute, as an underdog. He may have been an underdog for most of his fights in the UFC. That just goes to show the standard UFC fan has no idea what type of hungry warriors exist outside of the octagon. Gaethje was undefeated coming into the UFC. He picked up his first losses after having been a champion at WSOF, a title he never lost.
If losses are lessons, Gaethje absolutely learned from them. He showed control in the bout against Ferguson, even when he smelled blood, he never rushed in. He may not want to wear the interim title, but he certainly got the true champ’s attention.
The Eagle, The Boogeymen, and the curse
UFC 249 was supposed to be the ultimate lightweight match-up between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. The amount of times the match-up has fallen apart brought about the superstition of the bout being cursed. Gaethje was asked if he could break the curse and it would seem that he did. For some reason, Conor McGregor is in the conversation for top lightweights and if Nurmagomedov is looking at Gaethje now, perhaps Ferguson can try his luck with the Irishman. When Dana White was asked in the post-fight presser if this was the end of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, his reply was, “for now it is, yeah.”
White acknowledged Nurmagomedov’s interest in returning to action this summer and with Gaethje as the interim lightweight champion, that is the obvious fight to make. With the bantamweight champion retiring, Dana White said the next fight to make would be “Petr Yan and somebody.” Planning is odd, in a time where people are told to make no plans. On that White said, “The whole world is weird right now.” However, having the event go down, brought some sort of normalcy.
Two more events are on deck for Jacksonville before fans might see events on the now-infamous “Fight Island.” White also said, the more events they do, the better they can get at it in moving forward and that other sports leagues have already reached out for help in planning their returns. Like it or not, sometimes trying something is better than doing nothing.
What did you take away from the event?