Khabib Nurmagomedov has packed his bags and returned home to his native Russia.
The undefeated UFC lightweight champion is gearing up for a title defense opposite undefeated champion Tony Ferguson. The bout was originally expected to go down at UFC 249 on April 18 in Brooklyn, yet as the coronavirus pandemic has swept the planet, the status of the card has become quite uncertain. We already know it won’t be happening in New York, and perhaps not even on US soil.
Nurmagomedov’s preparation for the fight has also been disrupted by the virus, as his training home of American Kickboxing Academy has been forced to close its doors as a result of the spreading pandemic—hence his return to Russia.
Tass Sport was first to report the news that Nurmagomedov has been forced to head back to his homeland.
While it certainly makes sense for Nurmagomedov to head back to Russia to finish his camp, his move adds another layer of complication to his upcoming fight with Ferguson. As travel restrictions continue to tighten, the champ may well have difficulty flying to the new setting of UFC 249, wherever that winds up being.
That being said, if the card goes down in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, as suggested by Nurmagomedov’s coach Javier Mendez and father Abdulmanap respectively, he’s now much closer than he would be had he stayed on US soil.
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson have been scheduled to fight four times previously, yet the bout has fallen through on each previous attempt for a number of reasons. The difficulty the UFC has had booking this fight has led some fans to label it cursed. The possibility that it will be derailed by a global pandemic of the fifth attempt will not help this growing perception.
Do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson will end up fighting next month?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 3/23/2020.