With Khabib Nurmagomedov announcing his retirement from the UFC after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 last month, it looks as if his previously proposed fight with Tony Ferguson, which has been postponed on an amazing five separate occasions, may never happen.

Dana White did speak out recently, insisting that Khabib was still the lightweight champion and it may not be the last time Nurmagomedov fights, and could look to make it 30-0 inside the octagon in the future.

Stylistically it would be one of the best match-ups, not just in the lightweight division, but in MMA today. Khabib’s ground and pound has proved devastating against the likes of Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje Dustin Poirier, but Ferguson is arguably stronger on his back than he is on the feet and would have no qualms in taking on the Russian’s wrestling skills.

Yet after the five cancellations and Khabib’s retirement, is Khabib against Ferguson destined to be known as the greatest UFC fight that never happened? We look back at the story to date.

Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale

Already regarded as one of the best lightweights on the planet, Khabib (22-0 at the time) had not fought since April 2014 due to several serious injuries. With UFC looking to reintegrate the Russian, the bout with Ferguson was first set for the Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale in December 2015.

However, just six weeks before the bout, Khabib was forced to withdraw with a rib injury that left him questioning his UFC career. Ferguson was instead forced to fight Edson Barboza, submitting the Brazilian with a D’Arce choke in the second round.

UFC on Fox 19

With the Khabib-Ferguson match rescheduled for April 2016 at UFC on Fox 19, UFC fans once again reached fever-pitch ahead of the mouth-watering match-up. However, this time, just 11 days before the event, Ferguson announced that he had a fluid build-up in his lungs and would be unable to compete.

Khabib would instead go on to fight and beat Darrell Horcher by TKO to extend his unbeaten record to 23-0.

UFC 209 

Following his victory over Eddie Alvarez at UFC 205, Conor McGregor became the lightweight champion, with both Ferguson and Khabib holding legitimate claims to be the next in line to fight the Irishman. 

It was the perfect opportunity to rearrange the bout and it was set for the UFC 209 main event in March 2017. But following issues with his weight-cut, Khabib was admitted to hospital and forced to pull out of the fight once again. Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley would instead fight Stephen Thompson in the main event, leaving UFC fans once again clamouring for this eagerly-awaited clash.

UFC 223 

Ferguson would win the interim lightweight belt at UFC 216, submitting Kevin Lee in the third round, once again setting up the bout with Khabib, this time for the vacant lightweight championship.

Once again, though, the MMA gods were not smiling. As Ferguson prepared for the fight, he attended a promotional event for the UFC, where he fell over a lighting cable, rupturing his fibular collateral ligament.

Khabib would instead fight Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in April 2018, claiming the vacant belt with a dominant five-round decision victory.

UFC 249

The pair were next set to meet at UFC 249 in April 2020, only for another cancellation as Khabib pulled out due to travel issues. Ferguson instead went on to fight the dangerous Justin Gaethje at UFC 249 for the interim lightweight title, with Gaethje claiming victory to set up a title match with Khabib at UFC 254.

Gaethje would go on to lose that fight before Khabib immediately announced his shock retirement, meaning Khabib against Ferguson is now surely destined to be known as the greatest UFC fight that never happened.

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