May 10 (UPI) — Justin Gaethje upset Tony Ferguson to claim the interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 249 on Saturday night in Jacksonville, Fla.
Gaethje, 31, beat Ferguson via TKO at three minutes, 39 seconds of the fifth round inside an empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena. Saturday’s card took place in front of no spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the fight, Gaethje threw the interim belt off after UFC president Dana White put it around his waist. In his interview in the Octagon, Gaethje said he’ll “wait for the real one.”
“I am proud to hold this belt,” Gaethje said after the fight. “It feels good. Not many people in the world, much less fighters in the UFC, get to achieve this. So it feels fantastic, and I should enjoy it. But that was the competitor in me. You can never be satisfied. When I get the belt, I want the next one.”
Ferguson was scheduled to fight UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov on April 18, but Nurmagomedov said he was prevented from leaving his native Dagestan due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions. Gaethje filled in for Nurmagomedov before the fight card was postponed until May.
White indicated after Saturday’s fight card that a unification title bout between Gaethje and Nurmagomedov is “the fight to make” next.
“I can’t wait to face the challenge,” Gaethje said. “We’re competitors. That’s why we’re here. He owes it to me to try and kill me, and I owe him the same.”
Gaethje (22-2) earned his fourth straight victory, all by way of KO/TKO. Ferguson (25-4), who hadn’t lost since 2012, had his UFC lightweight record 12-fight win streak come to an end.
Gaethje and Ferguson each won $ 50,000 Fight of the Night bonuses, while Gaethje won an additional $ 50,000 bonus for Performance of the Night.
UFC 249 was one of the first major sporting events in the United States since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. Everyone involved with the fight card was tested for the virus before the event. It was UFC’s first card since March 14.
UFC 249 main card results:
Justin Gaethje def. Tony Ferguson via TKO in fifth round
Henry Cejudo def. Dominick Cruz via TKO in second round
Francis Ngannou def. Jairzinho Rozenstruik via TKO in first round
Calvin Kattar def. Jeremy Stephens via TKO in second round
Greg Hardy def. Yorgan De Castro via unanimous decision (30-27)
UFC 249 prelims results:
Anthony Pettis def. Donald Cerrone via unanimous decision (29-28)
Aleksei Oleink def. Fabricio Werdum via split decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)
Carla Esparza def. Michelle Waterson via split decision (30-27, 29-28, 27-30)
Vicente Luque def. Niko Price via TKO in third round
Bryce Mitchell def. Charles Rosa via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-24)
Ryan Spann def. Sam Alvey via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)