While the Ultimate Fighting Championship has canceled its next three events due to the coronavirus outbreak, Dana White has vowed to go to extreme measures to make sure the lightweight title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson takes place.
“This fight’s going to happen,” the UFC president said Monday on SportsCenter. “No crowd. Whatever it takes. Probably not even going to be in the United States, but this fight’s going to happen.”
Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson was originally scheduled to take place on April 18 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as the UFC 249 headliner. However, New York has already banned gatherings of 500 or more people, and with the U.S. appears on the verge of taking even more steps to combat the pandemic in the coming days and weeks.
Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, believes the Las Vegas-based promotion might be able to salvage the event by moving it to the United Arab Emirates.
“Most likely it will be Dubai,” Abdulmanap said in an interview with Russian outlet RBC Sport. “Firstly, it’s easier to fight diseases because of the heat. And I think the Emirates will pay for the UFC fight faster and easier. Abu Dhabi may well be, but then, [that’s up to] Dana White. I can’t approve, but there are more chances there.”
The promotion recently traveled to Dubai for UFC 242, where Khabib Nurmagomedov submitted Dustin Poirier with a rear-naked choke at the 2:06 mark of Round 3 in the evening’s main event. It’s still unclear if Dubai would be a feasible destination for the Octagon because of the numerous travel restrictions that have been imposed worldwide.
Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson has already been canceled on four previous occasions for various reasons, but all parties involved seem to want to make sure the fifth time is the charm. Regardless of the venue, Abdulmanap says that his son is ready to fight.
“Khabib feels great, everything is going according to plan,” Abdulmanap said. “He is not afraid of the coronavirus, we are all mortals. What about empty stands? I think that the audience is good, and even better without them.”
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