Khabib Can't Leave Russia Amid COVID-19; UFC 249 Fight vs. Ferguson Unlikely

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistMarch 30, 2020

Russian UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov gestures to the crowd during an open training session at Yas Mall in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. Fighters Dustin Poirier and Khabib Nurmagomedov will face each other in UFC 242, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Abu Dhabi. Nurmagomedov did not spar during the open training, saying he was still trying to make weight for the bout. (AP Photo/Jon Gambrell)
Jon Gambrell/Associated Press

Khabib Nurmagomedov's scheduled fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on April 18 is apparently in jeopardy.

On Monday, Nurmagomedov appeared on an Instagram Live chat (h/t ESPN's Ariel Helwani) and said he is in his hometown of Dagestan, Russia, and unable to leave because of closed borders due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Helwani reported the UFC knows Nurmagomedov's situation and is looking into alternative options for Ferguson on the same date. A fight between Ferguson and Justin Gaethje at a to-be-determined location has been offered but not finalized.

Helwani also shared RT Sport's translation of Nurmagomedov's description of the situation:

"We were training at (American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California) without any information regarding the fight -- where and how is it going to happen. 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 (the United Arab) 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 (the) 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."

Gaethje is a possibility for Ferguson because they are both American.

Sources told Helwani that the UFC believes it can still hold the event in the United States between two fighters who do not need to travel internationally.

While Nurmagomedov (28-0) is one of the sport's biggest headline-makers, a showdown between Ferguson and Gaethje would be intriguing. Ferguson is 26-3 and defeated Donald Cerrone via technical knockout at UFC 238 last June, while Gaethje is 21-2-0 and coming off his own win over Cerrone in September.

The previous four bouts between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have been called off.

ESPN.com provided a timeline, noting the first was canceled because Nurmagomedov suffered a rib injury. The second was canceled because Ferguson had a lung issue, the third was called off because Nurmagomedov was hospitalized, and the fourth was canceled because Ferguson needed surgery on his lateral collateral ligament. 

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