Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 April 2020

UFC chief Dana White reveals he has found a venue for Khabib Nurmagomedov v Tony Ferguson on April 18

UFC 249 has had to be moved but president claims title clash is on

Khabib Nurmagomedov last fought in the Octagon at UFC 242 when he beat Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Khabib Nurmagomedov last fought in the Octagon at UFC 242 when he beat Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dana White says he has found a location for next month’s UFC lightweight title clash between unbeaten champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson, although he did not confirm the city or venue

The much-anticipated bout at UFC 249 was originally scheduled for a sold-out Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 18, but has had to be moved because of the coronavirus crisis.

Rumours have been rife that the event would be cancelled - Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have agreed to fight four times previously, without it materialising - as major sports have shut down all around the world. Last week, the UFC called off its next three shows leading up to UFC 249.

However, White has been adamant Nurmagomedov-Ferguson would take place, with the UFC president considering possible venues outside the United States. Nurmagomedov’s father and coach had both suggested Abu Dhabi, which does have a partnership with the UFC.

On Monday night, White told ESPN the location was “99.9 per cent” confirmed, though he would not disclose it until it’s official. He also said the event, which would be a closed-doors show - would feature a full bill of fights.

"Trust me, Khabib has been telling me every day, 'Send location,'" White said. "I have it. It's 99.9 per cent. On April 18, we are having this fight.

"Full card. We're going to face some problems, I'm sure. There are always problems with every card we put on, and with this situation, you expect there will be more, but we will still find a way to promote these fights. We always do."

Speaking also to Yahoo Sports’ Kevin Iole on Instagram Live, White doubled down on his belief this past week that the fight would go ahead.

“How many times do I got to say this is happening?” he said. “Khabib-Tony is on. April 18. It’s happening.

“There aren’t going to be any fans there. This thing is going to be a closed event. Everybody who is going to be involved in this thing is going to be involved because they want to be involved.”

Asked if he knew where the fight would be held, White said: “I do, but I’m not ready to tell you yet.”

White has been bold in his assertion that UFC will continue amid the pandemic, vowing that the promotion would be the “first sport” to stage live events again – a stance that has been criticised.

“Everybody who is going to be involved in this thing is going to be because they want to be, not because they have to be or they have to do anything,” White said. “Believe me: we didn’t just start thinking about safety when the coronavirus popped up."

Nurmagomedov, who boasts a 28-0 record, last fought in September, when he successfully defended his lightweight crown by defeating Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi - taking his win streak in UFC to 12-0.

Ferguson, meanwhile, is also enjoying a 12-fight unbeaten run stretching back to 2012. His most recent victory came last June against Donald Corrine. Now the No 1-ranked challenger, Ferguson holds a 25-3-0 record.

Last week, White 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.”

Updated: March 24, 2020 11:06 AM

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