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UFC 223 main event saved as Khabib finally gets opponent

Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight Al Iaquinta at Barclays Center tomorrow night.

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway (in the background) at the UFC 223 press conference on Wednesday.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Max Holloway (in the background) at the UFC 223 press conference on Wednesday.
Image: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Updated Apr 6th 2018, 9:20 PM

UFC 223 HAS a main event at last.

Khabib Nurmagomedov will face Al Iaquinta in the headline fight at Barclays Center after one of the most tumultuous 24-hour periods in the company’s history.

Theirs will be a five-round fight with a catch: if Nurmagomedov wins, he becomes UFC lightweight champion. If Iaquinta wins, he will not become champion due to his weighing in at 155.2 lbs – two-tenths of a pound over the championship limit.

Plans for tomorrow night’s main event at UFC 223 in Brooklyn were thrown up in the air just hours after Conor McGregor was charged with assault and criminal mischief by the NYPD.

Max Holloway was earlier today declared “medically unfit” to compete against Khabib by the New York State Athletic Commission.

The Hawaiian had been due to weigh in this afternoon for tomorrow night’s clash with Nurmagomedov, but was prevented from doing so by the state governing body, causing further ructions to an already decimated card.

Holloway, the reigning featherweight champion, was only drafted in as a late replacement to face Nurmagomedov last Sunday, as a result of an injury to Tony Ferguson.

It’s understood that when he accepted the fight Holloway had approximately 20 pounds of weight to cut in order to make the lightweight championship limit of 155 pounds.

Holloway tweeted that while he was keen to continue cutting weight in order to fight tomorrow night, the commission has pulled the plug. The UFC are now seeking a replacement opponent to take on Nurmagomedov, with Anthony Pettis in pole position to face the undefeated Russian.

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Pettis, a former lightweight champion, was due to fight Michael Chiesa on this weekend’s card. However, that fight was cancelled last night due to facial injuries Chiesa sustained as a result of an attack on a bus carrying fighters, which was carried out by Conor McGregor and members of his team.

Nurmagomedov made weight earlier today. At approximately 3.50pm Irish time, Pettis weighed in at 155.2 pounds. He was not permitted an additional two-hour buffer to drop the excess fifth of a pound, which would have seen him fight Nurmagomedov for the title.

The UFC then tried to make a fight between Nurmagomedov and Paul Felder, who was originally scheduled to fight Iaquinta on the card. Felder was reportedly cleared to face the fearsome Nurmagomedov by NYSAC because he is not currently ranked among the world’s top 15 lightweights.

He and Pettis have now been left without opponents and will not feature on a card which has lost four of its 13 originally-scheduled contests.

Nurmagomedov carries with him a stellar 25-0 record to the octagon, while opponent Iaquinta – who’s on a five-fight win streak and has won eight of his last nine bouts – is 13-3.

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Paul Dollery

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