Justin Gaethje will match up with Tony Ferguson in the main event at UFC 249 on April 18, UFC president Dana White announced Monday.
Gaethje is a sub for Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is at home in Dagestan, Russia, where he is unable to leave because of closed borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.
White tweeted Monday that Ferguson and Gaethje will compete for the interim lightweight belt on April 18, adding, "The fight is signed and is 100% ON LIVE on ESPN somewhere on EARTH!!!!"
The last phrase is a reference to the fact that no site for the fight card has been confirmed. UFC 249 was originally scheduled to take place at Barclays Center in New York, but that location was scrapped when New York became one of the areas hardest hit by COVID-19.
On Sunday, ESPN's Ariel Helwani reported that the UFC is now seeking a West Coast location for UFC 249.
Nurmagomedov said March 30 on Instagram that he had been training in San Jose, Calif., before briefly heading to the United Arab Emirates after he was told UFC 249 would be moved there.
"But when we landed in (the United Arab) Emirates, we learned that they are going to close (the) borders and no one will be able to leave or fly in with (the) exception of residents. So, we had to fly back to Russia," Nurmagomedov said.
"Currently, I am in Dagestan and I am training and preparing every day, although I don't know what am I preparing for, because after we came to Russia we also learned that the borders are going to be locked. Same like in the States, same like in Europe, Emirates -- everywhere. The whole world is in quarantine right now."
Gaethje, a 31-year-old Arizona native who fights out of Arvada, Colo., has a 21-2-0 career record. He has won each of his past three bouts -- first-round finishes against James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone -- following consecutive losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier.
Ferguson, a 36-year-old from Southern California, owns a 25-3-0 mark, having won each of his past 12 fights. Most recently, he stopped Cerrone in the second round at UFC 238 last June.
The co-main event at UFC 249 is still scheduled to be a women's strawweight matchup between Jessica Andrade (20-7-0) and Rose Namajunas (9-4-0).
--Field Level Media