Khabib Nurmagomedov Stranded In Russia, UFC 249 In Further Limbo
By Ross Markey
The most cursed matchup in recent mixed-martial-arts history has seemingly hit a staggering fifth roadblock.
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson is expected to take place on April 18th. in the main event of UFC 249 – with lightweight gold up for grabs, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – the pairing is under severe jeopardy once more.
Originally planned to feature in Brooklyn, New York – the event has since been pulled, with an exact location and venue yet to be officially secured. The venue pothole is just the start of things.
Current 155-pound champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, is under lockdown in his native Dagestan, as travel restrictions imposed – prevents outward travel. Former interim champion, and perennial contender, Tony Ferguson, is still currently in California, putting finishing touches to his training camp for his expected April 18th. Octagon walk.
Speaking with RT Sport, Nurmagomedov revealed he had travelled to Dagestan, after he was informed the event wouldn’t take place in the United States, and how tentative plans had been made for the United Arab Emirates to host UFC 249 instead.
“We were training at AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) without any information regarding the fight, where and how is it going to happen,” Nurmagomedov said. “Then the UFC told us that the fight one-hundred per cent isn’t happening in the (United) States. And they said that ninety-nine per cent that it will happen in (United Arab) Emirates, Abu Dhabi.”
A meeting in Abu Dhabi would mark a return to the site of Khabib’s last victory. The 31-year-old unified the lightweight title in a UFC 242 headliner against Dustin Poirier last September via a rear-naked choke win.
“After talking to the UFC, we decided to fly over to the (United Arab) Emirates a month before the fight. I don’t remember the exact date, it was 19th. or 20th. I’ll have to check. But, when we landed in Emirates we learned that they are going to close borders and no one will be able to leave or fly in, with (the) exception of residents.”
“So we had to fly back to Russia. 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. Same like in the States, same like in Europe, Emirates, everywhere. The whole world is in quarantine right now.”
If Nurmagomedov remains in Russia – the likelihood of UFC 249 taking place with ‘The Eagle’ involved, has to be almost slim to none you’d imagine. If an undisputed meeting between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson is to be scrapped for a remarkable fifth time – the promotion will look to find Ferguson a short-notice matchup, according to Khabib.
“So, now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me. Ok, go ahead,” Nurmagomedov explained. “Everyone should follow the laws, I am not against it. I know the fighters need to feed their families and pay their bills. I know how hard it is for the fighter. Unless they fight, they aren’t getting any money.”
“I am even hearing that they are looking for an opponent for Tony (Ferguson) because he is in the States and I am here in Russia. But, I am here not on my own will. The UFC told me that this fight is one-hundred per cent 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. We discussed everything with the UFC. By that time, I already spent five-weeks of hard training at AKA.”
“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.”
If the April 18th. event takes place as scheduled, UFC president, Dana White has already confirmed it will take place behind closed doors and a closed gate, similarly to the organisation’s last outing in Brasília on March 14th. The promotion has already been forced to indefinitely postpone events in London, Columbus, and Portland – with bouts from those three cards possibly moving to UFC 249.