Injuries. Weight-cutting issues. A poorly placed television production cable. A worldwide viral pandemic.
Five times now the UFC has tried to make the fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson. And five times a fight many consider could be one of the greatest in mixed martial arts history has fallen out.
The most recent episode was finalized Wednesday, when Nurmagomedov, the undefeated UFC lightweight champion, acknowledged on social media that he’s out of his planned UFC 249 title defense against Ferguson on April 18.
How has the UFC’s great white whale of a fight managed to elude us so many times?
Here’s a look back …
The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale, Dec. 11, 2015: Numagomedov pulls out with injury
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson both were clearly stars on the rise when booked in a showcase fight at the TUF 22 Finale in Las Vegas, one night before Conor McGregor’s legendary 13-second knockout of Jose Aldo.
Ferguson, the “TUF 13” winner in 2011, was 9-1 in the UFC by this point, including six straight wins, most recently a thrilling brawl against former Strikeforce champ Josh Thomson in San Diego. Numagomedov, for his part, had won six in a row, but was out more than a year with a knee injury. His most recent victory had been over Rafael dos Anjos, who had gone on to win the lightweight title in the meantime.
For the first fallout, an undisclosed Nurmagomedov injury caused him to pull out of the bout. Ferguson took on replacement Edson Barboza and took home both “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night” for his second-round finish.