UFC 223: Tony Ferguson tears knee, Max Holloway to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov in main event

The main event of UFC 223 is undergoing a radical change as UFC president Dana White announced Sunday that Tony Ferguson recently tore his LCL and has been pulled from the main event against Khabib Nurmagomedov. White has named featherweight champion Max Holloway as Ferguson's replacement for Saturday's blockbuster fight, which will be contested in Brooklyn, New York, for the official lightweight title.

Holloway, coming off of an injury of his own that forced him out of UFC 222, will step up in weight with the title on the line against Nurmagomedov. If successful, he will join Conor McGregor as the only UFC fighters to hold multiple titles simultaneously.

This marks the fourth time in the last two years that a fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov has been canceled for one reason or another. First, Nurmagomedov pulled out of their bout in 2015 with an undisclosed injury. Then, Ferguson pulled out of their 2016 fight two weeks before when he found out he had blood and fluid in his lung. Most recently, Nurmagomedov pulled out of their scheduled headliner last year at UFC 209 two days before because of issues cutting weight.

According to ESPN's Brett Okamoto, Ferguson suffered the injury in quite an odd manner. While the champ was aiming to greet an acquaintance that he had spotted in a hallway, he stopped short and tripped over another person. That incident is why the scheduled main event of UFC 223 will not be taking place, and it is also probably a good example of why these two are destined to never meet one another.

"Words can't explain how hurt, frustrated, angry and in disbelief I an right now," Ferguson said in a statement on Twitter. "As I was completing my UFC pre-fight media obligations on Friday, I had an accident on a studio set that tore a ligament in my knee. My doctor and the UFC doctor both said I can't fight and one is saying I need surgery, so I will see a specialist to make the final determination on how I can heal up and get back in there to defend my belt ASAP. 

"I want to apologize to all the fans, the UFC, Khabib, my teammates, my coaches, my friends and most importantly my family. Happy Easter to everyone out there, I believe there is a silver lining in this nightmare of a reality, because this isn't an April Fools. Good health and blessings to you all."

Shortly after the news of Ferguson's injury was released, some questioned why it couldn't have been McGregor to step in on short notice. Earlier on Sunday, before the breaking news of the cancellation, Nurmagomedov even called for the fight himself. While one may not always agree with White's statements, he offered his reasoning to Okamoto as to why McGregor taking the fight was never going to happen. 

"I don't think Conor McGregor could make the weight on six days' notice. That's a tough weight cut for him," White said. "And Conor is not the guy I want to throw in as a late replacement fighter. He's a guy I want to make a fight with and have the right amount of time to promote the fight.

"I think Conor could return in September, and it could be against one of these guys."

Should Holloway emerge victorious, few would complain about seeing two multi-division champion clashing in the Octagon down the line. 

CBS Sports Staff

Adam Silverstein joined CBS Sports in 2014 as college football and golf editor. He also helps lead pro wrestling, boxing and mixed martial arts coverage. Adam still maintains that Tim Tebow could have... Full Bio

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