UFC 249: Khabib Nurmagomedov says main event likely off due to travel restrictions, says UFC is working on a replacement for Ferguson

Photo: Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
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Khabib Nurmagomedov broke news on his Instagram live, early Monday morning, that he is likely not going to be defending his lightweight title against Tony Ferguson in the main event for UFC 249, on April 18.

According to Nurmagomedov, the same reason that he was forced to fly back to Russia, is the same reason why he is likely to be out for UFC 249.

“We were training in the AKA without any information regarding the fight, where and how it is going to happen,” said Nurmagomedov, (via RT sport translation). “Then the UFC told us that the fight 100 percent isn’t happening in the States. And they said that 99 percent 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 (March) 19 or 20, 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 exception for 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.”

Khabib added that he hears the UFC is now planning on moving forward with the main event, with or without him.

According to Ariel Helwani, and sources, the UFC is in fact working on proceeding with the UFC 249 card, as scheduled, even if it means finding a last minute replacement for the other half of UFC 249’s main event.

Per sources, an offer has been made for Ferguson to fight Justin Gaethje, instead. However, there has been no official word on who will be the replacement fighter at this time. Nor has a location for the event been set.

Gaethje, 31, has been campaigning for a number one contender fight against Conor McGregor, or the next title shot, for months now. After talks about getting a fight against McGregor have led to nowhere, it appears he may just be getting the next best opportunity in a title fight against Ferguson.

“So, now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me. Okay, go ahead,” said Nurmagomedov. “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. Unless they fight, they aren’t getting any money.”

“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. 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. We discussed everything with the UFC. By that time I already spent five weeks of hard training (at) AKA.”

Nurmagomedov confirmed that he is still training as if he will be fighting come April 18, but acknowledged that his motivation to train may be dwindling under the new found circumstances.

“Now I don’t really know what’s going on,” he said. “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’ve (had to) face obstacles in my career.”

This would be the fifth time the UFC has tried to make this fight happen between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, only to see it fall though, once again. However, this time the reasons have nothing to do with either fighter.

UFC 249 was originally supposed to take place in Brooklyn, New York, but due to new guidlines put in place regarding the COVID-19 outbreak, the UFC has been struggling to find a location to hold the event for the better part of a month now. The location for the event is still to be confirmed.

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