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Max Holloway to replace injured Tony Ferguson at UFC 223

A Tony Ferguson-Khabib Nurmagomedov fight has been scrapped for a fourth time.

Less than a week before the pair were to square off for the lightweight title Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center in the UFC 223 main event, Ferguson tripped while walking and tore a knee ligament.

The unlikelihood of a fourth cancellation, following a Ferguson injury the first time and a Nurmagomedov injury before the second, was so laughably unfathomable that a UFC spokesman had to insist this was no April Fool’s Day joke.

The UFC has replaced Ferguson with featherweight champion Max Holloway, who is recovered from an ankle injury that caused him to miss the UFC 222 main event in March.

UFC president Dana White told The Times in a text message that Ferguson tore his lateral collateral ligament, while another official briefed on the injury said it happened while Ferguson was walking through the Fox television lot in Los Angeles.

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Since Ferguson (25-3), who is interim lightweight champion, had been highly critical of Nurmagomedov (25-0) for falling ill during a March 2017 weight cut that caused that fight to be canceled, Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, pulled no punches in his response to the news of Ferguson’s fall.

“I guess he needs a walking coach,” Abdelaziz told The Times on Sunday. “This guy has talked about us being unprofessional, and he can’t even walk.”

Abdelaziz said he initiated the push for Holloway as a replacement by reaching out to the featherweight champion’s manager.

While Ferguson has won 10 consecutive fights, Holloway (19-3) has won 12 in a row since a 2013 loss by decision against outgoing lightweight champion Conor McGregor.

Holloway knocked out former featherweight champion Jose Aldo in the third round during a December fight.

Should he defeat the unbeaten Nurmagomedov by moving up 10 pounds for the 155-pound title bout, Holloway will join McGregor as the UFC’s only simultaneous two-division champion in the company’s 25-year history.

White told The Times last month that this fight would be for the full lightweight title since McGregor has remained out of the octagon since November 2016, when the featherweight champion claimed his second belt by knocking out Eddie Alvarez in New York.

McGregor made an estimated $100 million in August when he lost to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a novelty boxing match.


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