It may not be a federal holiday pre-printed onto your wall calendar or a date synonymous with tradition or lore. But if you're a mixed martial arts fan, Oct. 24 has the makings to be one of the most explosive nights in UFC history.
Although the site has yet to be determined, UFC 254 is slowly becoming a loaded pay-per-view card that is already headlined by an incredible lightweight title bout between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim titleholder Justin Gaethje. But it's rumors of a co-main event that puts all normal levels of expectations through the roof.
UFC president Dana White told the media last week that Tony Ferguson will "probably" be booked to face Dustin Poirier in a co-main event slot on that same UFC 254 card.
Given it's status as a likely No. 1 contender fight and its pairing with the championship main event, the fight could help the evening become one to remember within an already historic lightweight era. For a division that had been previously handcuffed by injuries and Conor McGregor holding the title for nearly two years without defending it, never before has one night been this important in terms of declaring order.
And that's not even talking about the potential for drama and brutality. If UFC 254 is headlined by a four-pack of the sport's most determined and aggressive fighters who, if the card lives up to expectations, could join the conversation of having produced the best final two bouts in succession to end a card in UFC history.
That's an exclusive and somewhat random club with insanely high acceptance standards including unforgettable gems like UFC 196 (Miesha Tate-Holly Holm, Nate Diaz-Conor McGregor I) and UFC 236 (Israel Adesanya-Kelvin Gastelum, Poirier-Max Holloway).
Of all the fighters Nurmagomedov has dominated throughout his unbeaten streak, never before has one combined the levels of technical skill and savagery like Gaethje. A win for "The Highlight" would turn the future of the division upside down. A loss, however, could propel Nurmagomedov into blockbuster career finale next April that could see him retire with a strong case as the sport's G.O.A.T.
In addition to determining the next title challenger, Ferguson-Poirier has a chance to outright become the fight of the year given the fighting spirit of both competitors and the guaranteed standup war it would present. A pairing between two of the best 155-pound fighters in history, it also has a chance to join the short list of best non-title fights ever booked in UFC history, like Dan Henderson-Mauricio "Shogun" Rua I, Diaz-McGregor II and Chuck Liddell-Wanderlei Silva.
All four of the competitors in this proposed lightweight doubleheader are also currently ranked within or just outside of the top 10 pound-for-pound, which is an incredible footnote to further explain just how great the matchmaking and timing for this card truly is.
Although it would've been acceptable this year had the enigmatic McGregor crashed the title picture at any given point considering his history as a next-level draw, UFC 254 is a celebration of due process playing out within a competitive division in the most pure way possible.
👊💥😱— UFC (@ufc) May 10, 2020
How is Ferguson still standing after this massive right from @Justin_Gaethje?! #UFC249 pic.twitter.com/Ow1Qdb3cNQ
Just about the only thing the action-packed lightweight division has been unable to deliver upon during this incredible stretch -- which has already produce fight-of-the-year contenders in 2020 from Gaethje-Ferguson and Poirier-Dan Hooker -- has been the Nurmagomedov-Ferguson fight. Improbably bad luck has led to that fight being scheduled and postponed an incredible five times in the past five years, including as recently as April.
Not only does UFC have the potential to end up getting the elusive fight next April should both win out on Oct. 24 and Nurmagomedov choose Ferguson over McGregor and Georges St-Pierre as his final foe, White and company have created an incredible backup plan. Should either Nurmagomedov or Gaethje need to withdraw for any reason, even in an extreme situation, either Ferguson or Poirier will be there to step up, meaning the sixth time might be the charm as soon as this fall for the one fight that got away.
It goes without saying what a success UFC's efforts have been to lead the charge in terms of bringing back professional sports in as safe a manner as possible within the coronavirus outbreak. But this twin bill of extreme potential at UFC 254 is only gravy on top of what has been a sneaky good year despite the circumstances of a difficult quarantine.
A division, loaded with future Hall of Famers and as deep as any has been at a single point in UFC history, finally has its ducks in a row in as foolproof a way -- knock on wood -- as ever before. This is history in the making.