KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV'S rivalry with Tony Ferguson has been described as "cursed" with the fight now officially CANCELLED after four previous postponements.
In the past few months, hurdles such as tripping over cables and broken ribs had seen the bout pushed back time and time again.
But by far their greatest crisis ahead of UFC 249 was the coronavirus pandemic – which has now seen the fight scrapped entirely.
UFC president Dana White was adamant against all odds he would finally have the two lightweights face each other in the octagon, even if it was in an empty arena and thousands of miles away from America.
With the fight now no more, we take a look at why White and UFC fans were so desperate to see the duo fight…
Fight No1 – The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale: December 11, 2015
Russian Nurmagomedov was taking the UFC by storm as he marched to six straight wins on the spin with only Ferguson standing in his way at a shot at then champion Rafael dos Anjos – who he had beaten a year prior.
But bad luck would strike for the first time in their rivalry as the Dagestani hero suffered a broken rib in sparring six weeks out from the fight.
Nurmagomedov hadn't fought since April 2014 and was building a reputation for being an inactive fighter.
Ferguson went on to beat substitute opponent Edson Barboza by second-round submission and extended his winning run to seven.
Fight No2 – UFC on Fox 19: April 16, 2016
After Nurmagomedov recovered from his rib injury, the fight was rescheduled with the Russian making his first appearance in the octagon for two years.
But he did so without facing Ferguson, who was pulled out of the bout 11 days prior as a UFC doctor discovered fluid and blood collecting in his lungs and ruled the American out of competing.
Nurmagomedov stayed on the bill and beat UFC debutant Darrell Horcher at a catchweight 160lb fight.
White still wanted to have the 155lb stars face off but first Nurmagomedov went on to defeat Michael Johnson while Ferguson scored wins against Lando Vannata and former champion Dos Anjos.
Fight No3 – UFC 209: March 4, 2017
The pair made it all the way to fight week before Nurmagomedov was hospitalised a day before the weigh-in as he battled to shrink down to the 11st limit.
He later revealed doctors refused to let him fight, as he said: "[The doctors] say 'no fight. You need to stay hospital for seven hour, we have to make sure your body is good'. I feel I almost died."
They were set to headline the event with the interim lightweight belt on the line as champion Conor McGregor prepared to make his boxing cameo against ring legend Floyd Mayweather.
Ferguson would fight for the 155lb title, but did so five months later as he beat Kevin Lee for the interim strap which in turn set up a unification against Nurmagomedov.
Fight No4 – UFC 223: April 7, 2018
With champion McGregor about to lose his belt without fighting, interim champion Ferguson was due to face No1 ranked challenger Nurmagomedov with the winner claiming The Notorious' title.
But in an extraordinary cruel twist of fate, Ferguson – wearing sunglasses indoors – tripped on a TV cable as he filmed a mandatory promo shoot for the fight.
The bitterly unfortunate fighter later revealed gruesome pictures as he tore his knee ligament, with then featherweight champion Max Holloway drafted in as a replacement.
To make matters worse, Holloway was pulled out by UFC doctors as he tired to make the lightweight limit and Nurmagomedov went on to win the belt win a points victory against Al Iaquinta.
Ferguson was left heartbroken as he was stripped of his interim belt for the bizarre injury and still to this day claims he is the rightful champion having not been beaten for the strap.
Fight No5 – UFC 249: April 18, 2020
Just as it appeared UFC supremo White had given up on the fight, Ferguson extended his winning run to 12 and could not be denied a shot at Nurmagomedov's lightweight crown.
In November it was announced they would headline UFC 249 in New York – but three months later, as the deadly COVID-19 bug continued to sweep the globe, the fight, again, looked in doubt.
After President Donald Trump banned all but essential travel to and from America and restricted gatherings of over 10 people, White revealed the fight would take place behind closed doors.
And refusing to give in, the promoter claimed he has a location secured, reassuring fans the fight will somehow go ahead.
He said: "That fight will happen. It will go on. The fans are all freaking out about that, do not worry. Khabib versus Tony will happen.
“I do (know where it is), but I’m not ready to tell you yet.
"I know lots of things. There’s not going to be any fans there. It’s going to be a closed event.”
Alas, that dream is no more…
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