Khabib Out, UFC 249 in Danger

by Vito Basile

Khabib Nurmagomedov told his fans on Instagram Sunday evening that he’s no longer available to fight Tony Ferguson because of the implemented quarantine and border closing in Russia. Khabib told fans that he left the US because he was informed by the UFC that the fight will 100% not take place in the US due to our quarantine restrictions and closures. The UFC also told Khabib and his team that it would most likely take place in Abu Dhabi, but when Khabib decided to fly there to finish his last couple weeks of training, Abu Dhabi also told him that no one was allowed in or out due to their implemented quarantine regulations, forcing him to fly back to his home of Dagestan.

This news, although not unsurprising, has the MMA universe disappointed. Once again, the MMA gods just will not let Khabib v. Ferguson happen. Five times this fight has been scheduled, and all five times, it’s been cancelled.

The cancellation this time, though, is to no fault of the fighters. The coronavirus caused this epic fight to collapse once again, but if you’re looking for someone to blame, you should put some of that blame on UFC President Dana White. White has been very vocal since the last UFC event in Brasilia, saying numerous times that UFC 249 will happen. The UFC has been searching for a venue, both stateside and across the pond. Rumors were that it was going to take place somewhere in Florida, but with the recent state closures, that quickly fell apart. Then there was the talk of Abu Dhabi, which made sense, but as we heard from Khabib, they are in quarantine, too.

Not only does Dana White have to find a venue now, but he also must find a replacement for Khabib, or scratch that fight altogether and find a whole new card. Again, according to MMA insider Ariel Helwani, the UFC had spoken with Justin Gaethje about replacing Khabib, taking on Ferguson. Since the news broke, nothing has been said about this. There have been rumors and speculation that other fighters were offered the fight, i.e. Dustin Poirier. Some fighters went as far as to offer to take the fight on short notice. It’s also possible that the fight will be scrapped and replaced by a match-up like Masvidal v. Usman or Covington v. Woodley, but chances are this won’t happen.

As bad as I want to see the fight happen, I believe it’s in the best interest of the fans and fighters to just completely shut down UFC 249. With everything going on, and the uncertainty of when life will resume as normal, it’s better for the UFC to allow these fighters to stay healthy and continue their ongoing camps. Being a UFC fan myself, hoping that Khabib v. Ferguson was going to take place, I understand that the best move is to just scrap it. Once we’re ready to resume, there are many fight cards to be reused, as well as allowing many more to be made. MMA gods if you’re listening, please allow Khabib v. Ferguson to happen someday; we MMA fans deserve it!