As UFC president Dana White continues to insist the UFC 249 bout between lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will move forward despite the global coronavirus pandemic, the champ has returned to Russia for the final weeks of his training camp.
Nurmagomedov had been training at AKA in San Jose, with teammate Daniel Cormier telling the UFC Unfiltered podcast the gym was only opening for the champ and a few training partners for two hours a day. AKA head coach Javier Mendez told ESPN the situation was even more strict, saying, “Just Khabib. That’s it. Nobody else is allowed. No one is coming. Just Khabib. We’ve gotta keep it safe for him.”
As coronavirus led to reductions of large gatherings and more states instituting “shelter in place” orders, Nurmagomedov ultimately made the decision to return to his home country to finish preparation for the fight with Ferguson, according to a TASS report. A fight between the two has been scheduled and canceled four times previously, and despite White’s guarantees, still feels very much up in the air for April 18.
The location of the fight is something the UFC is still trying to work out. Originally scheduled for Barclays Center in Brooklyn, that venue has been. Nurmagomedov posted on Instagram Monday, seemingly curious as to the status of the fight as well as the location.
“Where do we fight and do we fight at all, but what about the weigh in and the place of the fight?” he posted in a message translated from Russian. “UFC 249. What are you?”
Another fighter scheduled for the card, women’s bantamweight Sijara Eubanks, is expecting the card to go forward. She also said the fighters on the card were pushing for it to take place.
“I’ve got my passport ready,” Eubanks told MMAjunkie. “I don’t care where it is. I don’t care if I can bring one guy, eight guys, I don’t care. I’m down. I think this is an opportunity to fight. The rest of the world is shut down. There’s no live sports happening. There’s nothing really going on. Everybody’s quarantined. It’s a time of international crises. Why not? I’m honored just to be basically on the card.
“I’m confident this fight is going to happen. I think all of the fighters on the card are pushing for it to happen. I think it’s going to happen no matter where it goes down, and once it does go down, it’s going to be epic because we’re going to be the only people in the whole entire world allowed to compete. Like, what the hell? That’s exciting.”