The sports world is on hiatus right now due to the global pandemic that is COVID-19 and the far-reaching impact it’s had just about everywhere, from China and southeast Asia to Iran to Italy and central Europe to the United States where the outbreak has reached record levels. Most sports leagues have accepted their fate that they will not be playing games for some time — the latest federal push of CDC guidelines banning gatherings of more than 10 people through April 30 indicates it wouldn’t be until the summer at the earliest before leagues get back.
UFC has been insistent that their big UFC 249 event would still take place on April 18, however, in a venue outside the United States and without fans. The main event for the card was set to be the highly anticipated matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson, but that appears to be unlikely to take place due to travel restrictions placed on Russia, where Khabib recently returned to and now is stuck.
Nurmagomedov updated fans on his status on an Instagram Live on Monday morning, saying he was not able to travel due to the recent restrictions placed on the country by the prime minister. He also explained he was told the fight was likely to happen in the UAE, but when he left camp in the U.S. and traveled there earlier in March, he was told he had to return to Russia due to restrictions that were set to be enforced there. A snippet of the translation of his IG Live is below, via RT Sport.
“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 19th or 20th, I’ll have to check. But when we landed in Emirates we learned that they are going to close borders. And no one will be able to leave or fly in, with exception for 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.
“So now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me. OK, go ahead.”
According to ESPN’s Ariel Helwani, UFC is aware of the situation and is now moving forward with looking for alternatives, including a possible replacement fight for Ferguson, as well as seeking a new location for the event.
Ferguson, per sources, has been offered a fight against top contender Justin Gaethje. However, that fight has not been agreed upon nor finalized. Neither has a location for the event.
Given increased travel restrictions facing just about everyone around the world right now it is hard to see how UFC pulls off getting all of their fighters to a central location outside the United States for this event. As more restrictions get placed in more places, Dana White and company will be hard pressed to find a location that can accommodate them, but there’s no doubt they certainly will try to make it happen.