For the fifth time, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson appears to be off; this time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite president Dana White’s best efforts, the lightweight champion confirmed Wednesday that travel restrictions have forced him to stay in Russia, dramatically increasing the odds of a withdrawal.
Russia is currently experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases, with 771 new cases officially reported Thursday, part of 3,548 total cases nationwide. Moscow has banned foreign nationals from entry and imposed strict lockdowns in major cities.
Ferguson was disappointed with the news and accused Nurmagomedov of ‘bailing out’ in an interview with ESPN.
UFC 249 is in jeopardy of being postponed outright but with just over two weeks away, White continues to refuse to confirm the card’s postponemnt.
The UFC has not officially confirmed Nurmagomedov’s withdrawal or card postponement either, but White did confirm Nurmagomedov’s withdrawal in a text to Yahoo Sports reporter Kevin Iole.
Meanwhile, unoffically, Justin Gaethje’s name has been floated as a possible replacement for Ferguson.
“Nobody knows location, but everyone wants me to fly somewhere,” Nurmagomedov said on his Instagram Thursday. “I don’t understand this. UFC tried to find a location (almost one month ago); they don’t find. What about me? This is my mistake? UFC don’t send us location. Where (are) we going to fight? I don’t have location; that’s why I’m not going to fight.”
The situation is still fluid, and with White and the company working furiously to find a solution, anything is still possible.
But it appears that fight fans should temper their expectations of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, for now.