UFC 249 is still scheduled to happen on April 18, but the title fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson almost certainly won’t be happening due to the coronavirus pandemic and the travel restrictions keeping Khabib in Russia.
Khabib hasn’t been in Russia for long. He’d been in the US training when many states began banning large gatherings. UFC 249 lost its venue (the Barclays Center in Brooklyn) and was moved to Abu Dhabi. Khabib said on Instagram Live that he and his team flew there around March 20, but they had to leave quickly due to forthcoming travel restrictions. He flew home to Dagestan only to find out that Russia was imposing the same restrictions.
Khabib is now stuck in Russia, ending any hope that he would meet Ferguson in the octagon at UFC 249.
There was a glimmer of hope on Wednesday that Khabib would be able to make it out of Russia for the fight (though where he’d go is unknown, since UFC president Dana White has yet to announce a venue for the fan-free event after Abu Dhabi fell through). According to RT Sports, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency is allowing private flights between Russia and the United States, as long as proper permission is obtained. While Khabib might have issues reentering Russia, he’d be able to leave for the fight.
Khabib squashed that glimmer on Wednesday afternoon, posting his thoughts about the travel restrictions and the fight on Instagram. He wants to fight, but doesn’t believe he should be the exception to the numerous health and safety restrictions that many countries have put in place.
Staying home in quarantine and reading the reaction of people to the situation around my fight, it turns out that the whole world should be in quarantine, governments of all countries, famous people around the world urge people to follow all safety requirements in order to limit the spread of the disease, to save people, and Khabib is the only one relieved of all obligations and must demonstrate free will and train flying around the world, for the sake of fight? - I understand everything and I’m definitely upset more than you to cancel the fight, probably like all others, I had many plans after the fight, but I can’t control it all.
The greatest countries and the largest companies of our time are shocked by what is happening, every day the situation changes unpredictably.
But Khabib still has to fight, is that what you saying? -
Take care of yourself and put yourself in my shoes.
A few replacements for Khabib have been suggested, including Justin Gaethje and Conor McGregor. McGregor may be a non-starter though, as he’s currently in his native Ireland and has been posting serious messages on social media about following local health and safety restrictions.
White seems determined to force UFC 249 to happen despite numerous cancellations and continuing criticism about needlessly endangering the lives and health of UFC employees, fighters, and anyone else involved in the event. The show may still go on, but Khabib won’t be part of it.
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