It's been known for some time now that Khabib Nurmagomedov is out of UFC 249. The UFC lightweight champion has been unable to leave Dagestan, which means his scheduled fight with Tony Ferguson has now fallen through for an unparalleled fifth time.
Ferguson will take on Justin Gaethje, and whilst the Russian will surely tune in for the bout, his belt will be secure, for now. 'El Cucuy' and 'The Highlight' will instead fight for the interim lightweight title, which tends to blow things wide open within a division.
The lightweight scene itself is used to these dramatic changes when an interim title gets thrown into the mix. In recent times, Ferguson himself, as well as Dustin Poirier, have both held interim belts in this division which has changed the dynamic of this unique weight class in the present day and for the future.
It's been two years since Ferguson won his interim title against Kevin Lee, which resulted in another scheduled bout against Khabib. Of course, this fell through. And, in April 2019, Poirier claimed the interim belt over Max Holloway following Khabib's suspension after the post-win mayhem over Conor McGregor.
Interim belts often give those who aren't in within an immediate title shot an undeserved chance. Gaethje is fully deserving of his this one, however, and now we have two former lightweight champions and two ex-interim champs battling it out within one division, with Gaethje potentially becoming the third interim title-holder in three years.
The lightweight division is already like no other and we could have an almighty few years ahead with so many different scenarios potentially unfolding in an unprecedented manner.