Despite Dana White’s stubborn persistence, there is still a real chance that UFC 249 doesn’t go as planned. Should the event happen, it’ll be sans one of the most anticipated fights in MMA history.
At this point, it seems likely that we never see Khabib Nurmagomedov meet Tony Ferguson inside the Octagon. Ferguson is 35 and has been through plenty of wars and suffered some tough injuries in recent years. If Ferguson does compete at UFC 249, it will be against Justin Gaethje.
Gaethje is a nightmarish match-up for anyone in the division and if he beats Ferguson, “El Cucuy” has some stern competition ahead of him to get back on top.
This wouldn’t be the first time a huge fight hasn’t come to fruition in MMA and it won’t be the last. So in the spirit of all that is going on, The Scrap brings you seven fights fans wanted but never had a chance to see.
Jon Jones vs. Anthony Johnson
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson was to meet Jon Jones at UFC 187 but Jones would be pulled from the matchup due to being involved in a hit-and-run with a pregnant woman. Jones was later stripped of his belt and “Rumble” would lose to Daniel Cormier in a fight for the vacant title.
Johnson would come back from the loss, flatten Ryan Bader, Jimi Manuwa, and knock Glover Texeira’s teeth out of his skull to again earn a title shot. Yet, Cormier would again top the man with dynamite in his hands and Johnson retired after the loss.
Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic vs. Randy Couture
In the early 2000s, all of the buzz on MMA forums was PRIDE vs. UFC talk. Who had the better talent? Who would win in champ vs. champ fights?
In 2006, it was announced heavyweight destroyer Mirko Cro Cop had left PRIDE and signed a deal with the UFC. Fans began salivating at seeing him take on the UFC’s homegrown star and then-heavyweight champion, Randy Couture.
To boost his popularity in America, the UFC booked a couple of “warm-up” fights for Cro Cop. The Croatian ran through Eddie Sanchez in his debut and was then signed to take on a slow, sort-of plodding jiu-jitsu guy named Gabriel Gonzaga. It should’ve been an easy fight for Cro Cop in the eyes of fans and bookies. Yet, Gonzaga didn’t get the memo.
Not only did he beat Cro Cop, but he finished him with a head kick – Cro Cop’s signature move – and denied fans of the inter-promotional super bout they anticipated.
Anthony Pettis vs. Jose Aldo
Anthony Pettis and Jose Aldo have both seen better days at this point, but once upon a time, both men were killers tearing through the competition. Pettis, unwilling to wait for his lightweight title shot, decided to drop to featherweight to challenge Aldo at UFC 164.
A knee injury would see that fight scrapped and Pettis went on to become the UFC lightweight champion. Aldo was set on going up to 155-pounds to meet Pettis for his new belt but “Showtime” instead opted to coach The Ultimate Fighter.
Both men would lose their titles not long after and the fans would never see the battle between the pair of proficient strikers.
Ronda Rousey vs. Cris “Cyborg” Justino
No matter how you feel about Ronda Rousey at this point, there was a time where she was only rivaled by Conor McGregor in popularity. And for good reason. Rousey absolutely tore through the bantamweight division and broke a plethora of records while doing so. She was arguably the most dominant female competitor the sport had ever seen at the time.
Well, unless you counted Cris Cyborg.
Cyborg hadn’t lost since her pro-debut and had since gone on a tour of destruction. For 12 years, Cyborg had knocked out everyone who stood before her, beating a bunch of former champions and had become an ominous presence in her own right.
Rousey, being the bigger star at the time, refused to go up a division and demanded that Cyborg come to her weight class. Cyborg flirted with the idea and did a couple of test runs in 140-pound catchweight fights, but just could not get the extra weight off to make 135-pounds.
George St-Pierre vs. Anderson Silva
In 2006, Georges St-Pierre knocked out Matt Hughes to begin his reign over the welterweight division. A month later, Anderson Silva put a master class on Rich Franklin and won the middleweight title. Aside from “GSP” losing to Matt Serra in one of the biggest upsets in MMA history, St-Pierre and Silva’s careers would run parallel to each other.
Silva would rack up 10 title defenses while “GSP” collected nine of his own. Both men cleared out their divisions and both did so in dominant fashion. The duo truly seemed unbeatable.
In the six-year time frame that saw these two behemoths on top, a super-fight was discussed heavily. According to Dana White, the bout was close to coming to fruition in 2012 and was expected to be hosted at the massive AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas where the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys play.
Sadly, the deal did not come together. Silva would go on to be upset by Chris Weidman in the months after White’s proposal and “GSP” would retire a few months later after his final title defense.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Randy Couture
For nearly a decade, Fedor Emelianenko did not lose a fight. Sure, he defeated the likes of Zuluzinho and Yuji Nagata but he also beat Mirko Cro Cop, Antonio “Minotauro” Rodrigo Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, and more. He fought around the world in various promotions but his managers could never come to a deal with the UFC.
Randy Couture was one of the most popular fighters in the world during the reign of “The Last Emperor”, and the UFC allegedly tried to make this bout happen but was unwilling to co-promote with Emelilanenko’s management. The fight was again rumored to happen in Affliction after Couture left the UFC but that promotion would crash after just two events. Couture was again offered a chance to fight Emelianenko just four years ago at RIZIN’s New Year Eve show, but the 52-year-old Couture declined.
Kazushi Sakuraba vs. Rickson Gracie
Kazushi Sakuraba has arguably one of the most deceiving records in MMA. He often fought way outside of his natural weight class and feared no man; even if those fights came at his own detriment. Aside from being on the receiving end of horrendous beatings, the catch/shoot wrestler’s courage and his matches against the legendary Gracie family are what will stick in the minds of fans of his MMA career.
Sakuraba not only beat but also submitted both Royler Gracie and Renzo Gracie. He’d also best Royce and Ryan Gracie via decision. Not only did Sakuraba win but he out grappled them. His performances against the first family of jiujitsu lead to the moniker “The Gracie Hunter”.
In 2001, Sakuraba was rumored to meet Rickson Gracie. Rickson was undefeated in MMA and widely considered the “best” Gracie. If anyone could avenge the family name, it was him. The fight purse was expected to be in the millions, which was huge for the early days of the sport, but Rickson has stated more than once that the loss of his son Rockson took away his desire to fight and he needed years to recover from the tragedy. By then, Rickson was done with the competitive side of the sport.