Although the status and location are up in the air for his main event lightweight title fight for UFC 249 against Tony Ferguson, champion Khabib Nurmagomedov is still focused on his training, under difficult circumstances. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic gyms have been forced to close down and the UFC has had to cancel their next three upcoming events, and now Nurmagomedov has to go through unique preparation.
Training out of American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California with head coach Javier Mendez, only the champion Nurmagomedov has been in the building. During an interview with ESPN’s Marc Raimondi, Mendez revealed that Khabib has been training by himself for two hours, and the gym has remained closed for the other 22 hours of the day.
“Just Khabib. That’s it. Nobody else is allowed. No one is coming. Just Khabib. We’ve gotta keep it safe for him.
Mendez would go on to say that despite the uncertainty surrounding his fight against Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov is training for either Ferguson or a top contender in the division.
“Khabib expects to fight somebody if something happens to Tony, he expects to fight somebody. One top guy. Whatever. And then he’ll go back after Tony. That’s the way he looks at it. He’s expecting to fight. It’s not like, ‘Tony is out; forget it I’m not fighting.’ He’s training to fight somebody. It’s not like he has it in for Tony. He doesn’t have it in for Tony. [Ferguson is] a top guy. He’s the very best right now that he could face. So that’s why [Khabib] wants to face him.”
As far as some of the changes Khabib Nurmagomedov has had to go through, Mendez says he’s the only coach with him in the gym on Tuesday, and while he is sparring three times a week, the amount of people in the gym around him is very limited.
Although there is uncertainty surrounding where the fight will take place, Mendez expressed faith in UFC President Dana White, saying he knows he’ll do all that he can to make the fight happen.
“I don’t know. I know Dana will do everything in his power to make it happen, but I don’t know if he will make it happen. I can’t say for sure he will. I’m not sure if they can pull it off, because [White] can’t control governments. I want it to happen, obviously. Nobody gets paid if nobody goes to work.”
Javier Mendez reiterated to ESPN that he’s training Khabib Nurmagomedov for a world title fight, and that the champion is preparing as if there is one taking place in April. UFC 249 had been schedule to take place in Brooklyn, New York, but a recent statement put out by the NYSAC and the UFC notes that will not be happening and the UFC is searching to find a new home for the event.
Do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson will actually take place in April?
This article first appeared on BJPenn.com on 3/18/2020