Javier Mendez asserts that Khabib Nurmagomedov took all the right steps to compete at the now-doomed UFC 249.
Nurmagomedov is arguably the most fearsome fighter in UFC history, yet the complicated nature of planning around the COVID-19 pandemic was enough for a vocal minority of fans to label him a coward.
“He didn’t choose to sit it out,” Mendez said during a fan Q&A on YouTube (h/t MMA Fighting). “He just went back home and he was waiting and training and waiting for a location. So he didn’t choose to sit out anything.”
“They couldn’t give him a location and then he couldn’t get permission,” Mendez argued. “He wasn’t gonna be able to get permission, so he didn’t really sit anything out. He didn’t get permission and he didn’t get the location and now we know why he didn’t get the location because of fear of it leaking out. Because it leaked out, now look, there is no show.”
Mendez continued to insist the UFC lightweight champion did more than his part to secure the main event title fight against Tony Ferguson.
“He did absolutely the right thing when he was told to go to Abu Dhabi because the show more likely was going to be there,” Mendez added. “And then he would go home from there if that didn’t work out, but that was the plan, and then train at home and then see what happens.”
Nurmagomedov (28-0) left the U.S. as travel restriction tightened. He traveled to Abu Dhabi but was forced to hurry back to Russia as the United Arab Emirates tightened their own restrictions. Shortly after arriving in Russia, the country put a halt to international travel. UFC President Dana White subsequently announced Tony Ferguson vs. Justin Gaethje for the interim UFC lightweight title before scrapping the event altogether.