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Khabib-Ferguson UFC 249 main event could be off due to travel ban


Image: MMA Fighting

One of the most anticipated fights in recent history has also been one of the toughest to book and for a fifth time, it appears it will carry that mantle once again.

On a social media chat Monday, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov said he is unable to leave his home in Dagestan, Russia, due to the coronavirus pandemic related travel ban, thus putting his UFC 249 main event against Tony Ferguson on ice once again.

Nurmagomedov said the UFC told him the event was "100%" happening in the U.S, and was "99%" going to be in Abu Dhabi. He then moved his camp from San Jose, California, based AKA to the United Arab Emirates in preparation only to be told the borders were going to close, so they went home to Dagestan instead. He said he continues to train, but is unsure for what fight and when.

While UFC has not commented publicly on this development, ESPN's Ariel Helwani reported that they are looking for an alternative which could be fellow top lightweight contender Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov alluded to the fact UFC was looking for other options and Gaethje is a managerial teammate of the champion's.

Helwani's sources say the UFC 249 pay-per-view will likely be somewhere in the U.S., but would have to feature all fighters based in the U.S. due to the various travel bans. The show was originally slated for Brooklyn, NY.

The face of the Endeavor-owned company, Dana White, has been unrelenting in his efforts to put on events while other major sports have shut down. Various state regulations surrounding mass assemblies of people have ensured any event in the short term will have to be held in front of no fans, but there are questions surrounding COVID-19 testing procedures and related medical testing that White has yet to answer outside of saying "the less the media and fans know, the better."