Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 1 June 2020

UFC 249: Dana White confirms Khabib Nurmagomedov will not fight Tony Ferguson

UFC president insists event will go ahead, likely on the west coast of the United States with Justin Gaethje set to replace the lightweight champion

UFC president Dana White, pictured in Abu Dhabi for UFC 242, insists UFC 249 will go ahead. Chris Whiteoak / The National
UFC president Dana White, pictured in Abu Dhabi for UFC 242, insists UFC 249 will go ahead. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dana White has confirmed that Khabib Nurmagomedov will definitely not be fighting at this month’s UFC 249, saying a full card will be announced on Monday.

The UFC president was responding on Sunday to a parody Twitter account, which claimed he had an agreement in place with Russian president Vladimir Putin to fly Nurmagomedov to the United States so he could face Tony Ferguson on April 18. The undefeated lightweight champion is currently in his native Dagestan.

Nurmagomedov and Ferguson had been set to headline UFC 249, which was originally slated for the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. However, the event was moved because of the coronavirus outbreak. No new location has been confirmed.

Last week, Nurmagomedov suggested he was out of the fight since he was stranded in Russia because of travel restrictions imposed to limit the spread of the pandemic. He later backtracked to say he would indeed face Ferguson - should a viable venue be announced.

Yet, replying on Sunday to claims Nurmagomedov would be soon on his way to the US, White said: "Absolutely not true!!! The card is happening but @TeamKhabib is out. I will announce the entire card tomorrow."

A report in ESPN early Monday said the UFC was closing in on a location for UFC 249 and hoped to finalise it in the coming days, with somewhere on the west coast of the US most likely.

It is understood Ferguson will meet Justin Gaethje in the headline bout, although the former, the division’s No 1-ranked challenger, is yet to sign off on the fight.

ESPN also reported that the UFC plans to hold multiple events at the same location during the three weeks following UFC 249. Last month, the promotion had to cancel a trio of shows leading up to April 18 because of the coronavirus.

Abu Dhabi had been discussed as a possible destination for Nurmagomedov-Ferguson, with Nurmagomedov saying last week he had originally been told by White that the rescheduled clash would “99 per cent” take place in the UAE capital.

Despite heavy criticism for attempting to put on UFC 249 during a pandemic, White has remained adamant it would still go ahead.

Last month, he told The National:We do not have a location set for UFC 249. I’m focused all day every day to find a venue. Everywhere is an option for this massive fight including international locations or potentially Las Vegas. It’s my only priority to find a location. This fight will happen.”

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Khabib makes triumphant return at UFC 242

Updated: April 6, 2020 11:30 AM

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