With the sports betting world starved for action due to coronavirus outbreak cancellations, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White is gambling on himself.
Along with making plans to host future fights on a private island, White has scheduled UFC 249 for Saturday, May 9 in Jacksonville, Florida. The Sunshine State was one of the first in America to “reopen” in spite of coronavirus fears, providing White and UFC fans with a welcome respite in the process.
In a statement issued by White on April 24, the UFC’s head honcho confirmed that its 249th pay per view spectacle would proceed this weekend:
“I can’t wait to deliver some great fights for the fans.
I want to give a big thanks to Mayor Curry, VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena and Florida State Boxing Commission Executive Director Patrick Cunningham for getting this thing done and giving us a venue to put on these incredible cards, as well our media partners including ESPN and ESPN+, for bringing it to fans.
My team is ready to go and the fighters are excited to get back in there with these back-to-back events.”
As the top combat sports regulator in Florida, Cunningham offered his own statement affirming the state’s commitment to running a safe slate of fights amidst the coronavirus crisis:
“Florida’s State Commission and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation have been in continued coordination with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) to identify options for bringing the UFC to Florida for upcoming events.
Florida welcomes the UFC to the Sunshine State, and our commission stands ready to sanction the events to be held on May 9, 13 and 16.”
Ferguson Looks to Win Interim Lightweight Title for Second Time
As for the fighters in question, the UFC 249 card is headlined by #1 ranked contender Tony Ferguson (25-3-0) taking on #4 ranked challenger Justin Gaethje (21-2-0) in a bout for the interim Lightweight Championship title.
At 36 years old, Ferguson – owner of an impressive 12-fight winning streak and 15-1 record inside the UFC’s infamous Octagon – hasn’t tasted defeat in nearly eight years. That run includes a submission victory over Kevin Lee at UFC 216 which let Ferguson claim the interim Lightweight Championship belt.
Injuries forced Ferguson to relinquish his title, which was then unified by Russian mixed martial arts (MMA) legend Khabib Nurmagomedov last year at UFC 242.
White originally tapped Ferguson to challenge Nurmagomedov at UFC 249, but with the latter unable to leave Russia due to coronavirus related travel restrictions, Gaethje was appointed as a late replacement.
Gaethje lacks the UFC experience shared by both Ferguson and Nurmagomedov, only appearing in the Octagon six times before. Nonetheless, his recent showing against top Lightweight talent like Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Edson Barboza, and James Vick – each of whom went down via first-round knockout – made Gaethje the natural choice for an interim title shot.
With only five weeks to train, however, Gaethje faces a tall task in toppling an experienced winner like Ferguson. Online sportsbook Bovada tends to agree, with the oddsmakers there installing Gaethje as a (+145) underdog against the big (-175) favorite, Ferguson.
And as Gaethje has observed before, neither he nor Ferguson expects the fight to go a full five rounds – what with both fighters’ propensity for early knockouts and submission stoppages, respectively. Ferguson has only gone past the third round once in his last 15 contests, while Gaethje has made it to Round 4 just once in his 23-fight career.
Given those numbers, backing the “No” (-330) side of a prop bet asking if the fight will complete four full rounds just might be the best bet on the board.
Undercard Features 11 Fights Spanning the UFC Spectrum
Before the Main Event gets underway, a stacked UFC 249 undercard will treat fight fans and sports bettors to a smorgasbord of action inside the Octagon.
To see how the undercard stacks up according to the bookmakers at Bovada, check out the full list of fights and odds below:
- Ryan Spann (-450) vs. Sam Alvey (+325)
- Bryce Mitchell (-160) vs. Charles Rosa (+130)
- Vicente Luque (-315) vs. Niko Price (+245)
- Ronaldo Souza (-130) vs. Uriah Hall (EVEN)
- Carla Esparza (-155) vs. Michelle Waterson (+125)
- Fabricio Werdum (-325) vs. Aleksei Oleinik (+250)
- Anthony Pettis (-150) vs. Donald Cerrone (+120)
- Greg Hardy (-205) vs. Yorgan De Castro (+165)
- Calvin Kattar (-265) vs. Jeremy Stephens (+205)
- Francis Ngannou (-300) vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik (+230)
- Henry Cejudo (-230) vs. Dominick Cruz (+180)