CHICAGO — The crowd was at a fever pitch from the moment Donald Cerrone’s entrance music came on for his fight with Tony Ferguson on Saturday in what was the main event of UFC 238 at the United Center in everything but name only.
It stayed at a crescendo for most of the 10 minutes of the hotly anticipated battle between Cerrone and former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson.
But the ending was unsatisfying to all, particularly to Ferguson. Cerrone’s eye swelled up badly in the second round from a Ferguson punch. In the corner as he was trying to open it up so he could see better, he made the cardinal sin of blowing his nose.
Blood immediately went to the area and the eye swelled out badly and was virtually closed. Doctors entered the ring to check on it, and Cerrone pleaded with them to allow the fight to go on. But there was no way he could safely continue and referee Dan Miragliotta waved off the bout.
It went into the books as a TKO at five minutes of the second round for Ferguson, who should get the first crack at the winner of the title bout at UFC 242 in September between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Dustin Poirier.
Neither man was pleased and Ferguson wasn’t thinking of a title shot.
“I don’t give a [expletive] who’s next,” Ferguson said.
The bout was a back-and-forth battle, as expected, with each man absorbing his share of damage. Cerrone seemed to have the better of it in a fast-paced first round, but Ferguson came back strong in the second.
Ferguson landed a straight right seconds after the bell sounded, but it is not believed that had anything to do with the finish.
Cerrone probably could have continued had he not blown his nose.
“I was trying to push the air back down,” Cerrone said. “I don’t quit. I don’t back down. I just wanted to keep fighting. I wanted to push the air back down.”
Ferguson said he’d do a rematch if that’s what Cerrone wanted. He was as upset, or perhaps worse, in victory than Cerrone was in defeat.
“That’s not how I wanted it to go,” Ferguson said. “No words. I don’t like to win that way. If he wants to run it back, we can run it back. He’s a hell of a [expletive] fighter.”
They both are, which is why so many in the crowd felt cheated by the ending. It was set up for an epic final round that was stolen because someone blew their nose.