At this point nobody knows what the hell is going to happen with UFC 249 later this month. Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) president Dana White would lead you to believe UFC 249 is going down without a hitch, but the problems keep piling up like a used car on its final leg.
Outside of still needing an actual location to construct an Octagon and host UFC 249 in its entirety, White now has to deal with the likelihood of having Khabib Nurmagomedov drop out of his main event lightweight title defense opposite veteran Tony Ferguson. That’s because COVID-19 travel restrictions in Russia are making it nearly impossible for Khabib to leave the country, especially when he doesn’t know where he should fly to.
While fight fans thought all along that White was trying to incorporate Khabib into his makeshift UFC 249 plans — seeing as this is the fifth time the promotion has booked Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson — apparently the UFC president knew that “Eagle” would not be competing this month.
“Everyone knew he’s not fighting,” White told Yahoo’s Kevin Iole via text message earlier this week.
White is obviously rolling with the punches on this thing and revealing as little information as humanly possible to the MMA media, but this doesn’t seem completely accurate. Khabib’s ability to travel out of Russia was just taken away this past week so it’s unlikely that White knew for too long that Nurmagomedov wasn’t an option for UFC 249’s headliner.
While things can still take a turn for the better with Khabib finding a way out of Russia, it sure seems like UFC 249 will move along without the undefeated Russian champ on the main event marquee. It’s incredibly disappointing not only for the simple fact that we’ve been denied Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson five times now, but also because it log jams a division that just started to clear itself up.
Luckily, UFC is still trying to stage the UFC 249 pay-per-view (PPV) card later this month as Justin Gaethje is being brought on as a potential replacement for Khabib. It isn’t the glorious lightweight affair that everybody was hoping for, but “Highlight” certainly brings the heat and will give Ferguson everything he can handle if the two square off on April 18th in a location yet to be determined.