With all the bluster he can muster, UFC boss Dana White has never stopped insisting that his dear old April 18 fight card will still move ahead as scheduled at a new location that has not yet been publicized. It all sounds like the kind of pie-in-the-sky, fact-free gobbeldygook we tend to expect from the White House, but such is the way of things in these days of COVID-19. In fact, even UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov's inability to participate in the long-awaited event due to being stuck in Russia still hasn't torpedoed the event in Dana's mind.
But let's be clear: whether or not Tony Ferguson faces a replacement opponent on April 18, Dana will still have his golden goose. Because all along, it's always been about Khabib vs. Conor McGregor II. Always -- even if fight purists don't want to admit it.
White himself made it clear that a Conor vs. Khabib rematch is the one possible fight headliner out there that can set records and make money fall from the sky on a massive global scale. For better or for worse -- stylistically, it's not nearly as interesting as a headliner-level fight involving Ferguson or proposed stand-in opponent Justin Gaethje -- casual fans will come out of the woodwork to watch McGregor fight for a title. He's the single biggest star in mixed martial arts, and it's not even close. It simply is what it is.
And that's why we shouldn't be surprised if Tony Ferguson's career trajectory pays the ultimate price. Whether or not he fights this month, the chances that he ever takes on Khabib for the lightweight championship after years of false starts are suddenly lower than they've probably ever been. Now 36 years old, his window is closing. But don't expect Dana to shed any tears on his behalf.
With the UFC faced with the need to make the biggest splash possible to recoup lost revenue due to the coronavirus shutdown, Ferguson is destined to be one of many casualties. As soon as Dana can put Conor vs. Khabib on the calendar, he's going to do it, every other logical matchup be damned.
Folks, money makes the world go 'round, and it's notably the only language White speaks fluently. Would Ferguson vs. Gaethje be an absolute bloodbath full of delirious blood and fun and also perhaps geysers of blood? Well, yes. But it's not what we've been looking forward to all this time.
And Dana doesn't care. It's always been abut Khabib and Conor as soon as such a thing was even remotely possible. And when all this dust settles, that's exactly what we're going to get, everything else be damned.