We are likely still a long way off from enjoying the pro sports landscape returning to anything resembling normal. The UFC appears ready, however, to continue holding shows regularly one the heels of its big return in Jacksonville which included three fight cards in the span of eight days. The UFC has continued exploring for new locations to hold fight cards in the United States and the looming specter of Fight Island has certainly raised optimism that the UFC schedule will continue to not miss a beat in the months to come.
With all indications the UFC will hold events on something resembling its standard schedule, fans can turn their eyes to the summer and begin speculation on what big fights the promotion could hold in the Octagon.
Let’s take a look at four of the biggest fights the UFC could — and should — put together in the coming months.
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Jon Jones vs. Francis Ngannou: With UFC president Dana White saying there would be no punishment from the UFC after Jones’ most recent run-in with the law, there’s nothing holding Jones back from getting into the Octagon this summer. After Ngannou blew through Jairzinho Rozenstruik in just 20 seconds at UFC 249, he seemed primed to wait for his title shot against the winner of the looming rubber match between Stipe Miocic and Daniel Cormier. But a potential fight with Jones in the light heavyweight champion’s heavyweight debut is the kind of big-money match that can ease the pain of waiting for a title shot that could be months or even a year away.
Jones and Ngannou have both said they want the fight, though White has balked at the idea with Jones recently tweeting “Send the Deal.” Of course, Jones has a big rematch with Dominick Reyes that could take priority, but there’s nothing more exciting for fans than seeing what happens when Jones finally makes the jump to heavyweight.
Lightweight championship — Khabib Nurmagomedov (c) vs. Justin Gaethje: If there’s any downside to Gaethje’s destruction of Tony Ferguson, it’s that the long-awaited bout between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov may be dead for good. Gaethje’s performance was so impressive, though, that it proved he may be a more suitable challenger for the unbeaten Nurmagomedov. With Gaethje holding the interim title and Nurmagomedov the division’s reigning champion, there’s no doubt this is a fight to make for the summer.
Nurmagomedov will enter the Octagon as a favorite, as well he should. But lost in Gaethje’s power-striking game is his legit All-American wrestling career. He doesn’t need to stop every takedown, rather just do well enough to spend time on his feet doing damage. That makes for a very interesting matchup to crown an undisputed champion at 155 pounds.
Welterweight championship — Kamaru Usman (c) vs. Jorge Masvidal: Usman putting his welterweight title on the line against Masvidal was basically a done deal before the coronavirus pandemic. Masvidal will never be as hot of a property as he is after his recent run, and he and Usman have the kind of beef that makes for a really good build, even if the pandemic prevents situations such as their Super Bowl weekend radio row confrontation.
There’s a possibility the “something else” White hinted the UFC has for Masvidal could be along the lines of a fight with Conor McGregor, which would be equally as lucrative, if not more. But it feels like this is the time to strike on putting Usman and Masvidal in the cage for what should be a top-notch brawl between two of the most exciting 170-pound fighters on the planet. And while it could take place on any show in the United States, there’s simply no fight that feels more like a proper Fight Island battle than a showdown between these two.
Featherweight championship — Alexander Volkanovski (c) vs. Max Holloway: The rematch between these two has been complicated by travel issues surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak, but with Fight Island on the horizon, this is a fight that’s perfect for the international travel destination. Volkanovski did a phenomenal job of dismantling Holloway in their first meeting to win the featherweight title, but Holloway’s incredible run to become champion gives the UFC plenty of reason to give him a chance to regain his crown.
The other benefit to the rematch is that it allows the next tier of featherweight challengers to shake out into a clearer picture. Volkanovski and Holloway are the clear elite fighters in the division, but The Korean Zombie and Zabit Magomedsharipov could both use another fight to really cement their respective cases for a title shot.