UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov said Sunday on Instagram Live that he remains in Russia and UFC 249 could proceed without him if the border restrictions in Russia remains in place.
Nurmagomedov was scheduled to defend his title against Tony Ferguson on the April 18 card, which was first set to for New York City's Barclay's Center but will be moved elsewhere. Nurmagomedov revealed Sunday that he was first told the fight would most likely be held in Abu Dhabi and he flew there before electing to return to Russia.
"We were training in the AKA without any information regarding the fight, where and how is it going to happen," Nurmagomedov said, as translated by RT Sport. "Then the UFC told us that the fight 100% isn't happening in the States. And they said that 99% that it will happen in Emirates, Abu Dhabi.
"After talking to the UFC we decided to fly over to the Emirates a month before the fight. I don't remember the exact date, it was 19th or 20th, I'll have to check. But when we landed in Emirates we learned that they are going to close borders. And no one will be able to leave or fly in, with exception for residents.
"So we had to fly back to Russia. Currently I am in Dagestan and I am training and preparing every day. Although I don't know what am I preparing for. Because after we came to Russia we also learned that the borders are going to be locked. Same like in the States, same like in Europe, Emirates, everywhere. The whole world is in quarantine right now."
The 31-year-old said the UFC is considering holding the card without him in the main event. UFC president Dana White told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto last week that finding a new location for the card is 99.9 per cent done.
"So now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me. OK, go ahead," he said.
"Everyone should follow the laws. I am not against it, I know that fighters need to feed their families and pay their bills. I know how hard it is for the fighter. Unless they fight they aren't getting any money.
"I am even hearing that they are looking for an opponent for Tony, because he is in the States and I am here in Russia. But I am here not on my own will.
"The UFC told me that this fight 100 per cent isn't happening in the USA, and even if it's not happening in the Emirates it will happen on this side of Atlantic. We discussed everything with the UFC. By that time I already spent 5 weeks of hard training in the AKA.
"Now I don't really know what's going on. It's really hard to train and cut your weight when the whole world is locked down and you don't know what you are preparing for. But it's not the first time I face obstacles in my career."
Ariel Helwani of ESPN reports that the UFC has offered Tony Ferguson a fight against Justin Gaethje, though that fight has not been agreed upon and the location of the card has still not been finalized.