Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, is currently training in his native Dagestan, unsure if he’ll defend his 155-pound strap against Tony Ferguson at the upcoming UFC 249 pay-per-view (PPV) event, scheduled for April 18, 2020 at a city and venue to be determined.
That’s because “The Eagle” — like most of the world — is faced with a strict travel ban in response to the coronavirus pandemic, that as of this writing, has infected 739,057 and killed 35,015. That includes 142,793 cases in the United States, which is why UFC 249 is no longer happening inside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
“Currently, I am in Dagestan and I am training and preparing every day, although I don’t know what am I preparing for, because after we came to Russia we also learned that the borders are going to be locked,” Nurmagomedov told his Instagram followers (via RT Sport). “Same like in the States, same like in Europe, Emirates – everywhere. The whole world is in quarantine right now.”
Manager Ali Abdelaziz spent his weekend on social media, attempting to rally combat sports fans with his “fake news” battle cry. Unfortunately, the longtime head of Dominance MMA had no explanation for his client’s admission that UFC was moving forward with or with Nurmagomedov, which could suggest an interim title.
“So now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me,” Nurmagomedov continued. “Okay, go ahead. Everyone should follow the laws. I am not against it. I know that fighters need to feed their families and pay their bills. I know how hard it is for the fighters. Unless they fight, they aren’t getting any money.”
UFC has come under fire for trying to organize a live sporting event in the middle of a global pandemic, which has the potential to put both athletes and staff at risk. Promotion president, Dana White, insists the show must go on and that safety protocols are in effect, including but not limited to an empty arena.
“I am even hearing that they are looking for an opponent for Tony, because he is in the States and I am here in Russia,” Nurmagomedov confirmed. “But I am here not on my own will. The UFC told me that this fight 100 percent isn’t happening in the USA, and even if it’s not happening in the Emirates, it will happen on this side of (the) Atlantic. Now I don’t really know what’s going on. It’s really hard to train and cut your weight when the whole world is locked down and you don’t know what you are preparing for. But it’s not the first time I face obstacles in my career.”
Personally, I don’t see a reason to keep UFC 249 on the books for April 18, which is less than three weeks away, without a Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson headliner. And I can’t imagine UFC would waste a Conor McGregor appearance for a closed-door event. Besides, “Notorious” is too busy championing his own quarantine in Ireland to leave for a fight.