The most anticipated fight in the history of the sport between champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson may not happen after all.
After being cancelled for as much as four times before, the future of the fight looked vague this time around as well. It almost seemed as if the MMA gods ran out of curses for the fight. This time around it was not the injuries but the COVID-19 outbreak which has acted as an obstacle.
Despite the UFC and President Dana White trying their best to make the fight and the card happen, the travel restrictions have forced a road block. Earlier on in the day, champ Khabib Nurmagomedov took to Instagram live claiming the country’s new travel bans has restricted him in Russia.
That obviously didn’t go well with Ferguson, who took to social media claiming travel bans won’t restrict him from ‘whooping’ Nurmagomedov. (via Instagram):
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April 18 Is Right Around The Corner @khabib_nurmagomedov , We Know You’re Hiding In Russia. The Travel Bans Will Not Prevent Me From Whoopin’ That Ass, So Don’t Use That As An Excuse To Back Out 💯 You Have Been Sent Many Locations … Just Send Us 1. You Are Still My Bitch & We’re Sure You Know It. #DefendorVacate MF ⚾️ -CSO- @ballengeegroup 🇺🇸🏆🇲🇽 #ufc249 @ufc @danawhite
“The UFC told us that the fight 100% isn’t happening in the States and they said that 99% that it will happen in Emirates, Abu Dhabi. After talking to the UFC we decided to fly over to the 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 as in the States, the same as in Europe, Emirates, everywhere. The whole world is in quarantine right now.”
“So now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me,” Nurmagomedov added. “OK, 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 fighter.”
If MMA reporter Ariel Helwani is to be believed, the UFC has offered Ferguson a fight against a top contender Justin Gaethje. (via Instagram):
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Khabib Nurmagomedov confirmed in an IG live chat earlier today that he is in Russia and can’t leave because they have closed their borders. He also said UFC has told him they are looking at another opponent for Tony Ferguson because the fight can’t be made now. (RT Sport first translated Nurmagomedov’s chat.) According to sources, UFC is aware of Nurmagomedov's status and have now begun looking at alternate plans for the April 18 main event and card, which they are still determined to put on. As a result, Tony Ferguson, per sources, has been offered a fight against top contender Justin Gaethje, however, that fight has not been agreed upon nor finalized. Neither has a location for the event.
The UFC however is yet to receive a green signal from Ferguson.