International travel bans to and from Russia due to the COVID-19 pandemic left Khabib Nurmagomedov locked down in his home country. As a result, it put his UFC 249 fight against Tony Ferguson in shambles.
“The Eagle” released a statement on Wednesday, expressing clear disappointment about his likely withdrawal from the fight. “El Cucuy” was equally left letdown, but is seemingly a bit more frustrated.
“Obviously, I was very upset,” Ferguson told ESPN (transcript by MMA Fighting) “I feel more for everybody else that’s actually going through some hard times. It’s a little bit different, of course, I’m a little bit pissed. He had the opportunity to stay here.
“He was in Abu Dhabi, he had his chance to be able to come back before the borders were closed in Russia. Decided to go back to Dagestan, did not finish his camp. The guy does not want to fight. He’s scared, he’s running. He should be stripped of his title.”
April 18 Is Getting Close @TeamKhabib & You’re Hiding In Russia. Travel Bans Will Not Prevent Me From Whoopin’ That Ass. Don’t Use It As An Excuse To Back Out. You Have Been Sent Many Locations, Send Us 1. Still My Bitch #DefendorVacate MF ⚾️ -CSO- #ufc249 @ufc @danawhite pic.twitter.com/TVQH4mnG2e— Tony Ferguson (@TonyFergusonXT) March 30, 2020
Ferguson feels there is an underlying reason behind Khabib’s decision to fly back home.
“I’m more down to fight than anybody, any time, anywhere unless the circumstances are completely different,” he said. “The fight’s against Khabib. This is the guy. Everybody just wants this fight. I get what he wanted to do. Obviously, he’s here, his family is back home in Dagestan, it is what you’ve got to do but he had the opportunity and he did the exact same thing at UFC 209.
“He knew that he wasn’t cutting weight very good. He said it already that he was having a hard time cutting weight, focusing and doing everything else like that. To me right there, he’s running away. He ran away. He obviously knew what he could do to help save this card. He didn’t want to take any of those chances. Everybody’s taking risks. He bailed out. It’s pretty hard to explain but he bailed out.”
Top contender Justin Gaethje is one of the frontrunners to replace Khabib. Ferguson is willing to step in, but with the right deal in place. What hinders him from agreeing just yet is the UFC’s uncertainty on where the fight is taking place.
“If you don’t have the location, how do you expect me to prepare?” Ferguson said. “I don’t need 24 hours – give me a couple hours to talk to my team and then we can go from there. We’ve had maybe 100 different locations.
“We’re on pins and needles after practice, and I’m tired as heck and I want to go home, and I can’t, because we’re waiting to see if this dang fight is going to happen.
“One thing I know is, I’m going to stay consistent with my training, and it doesn’t matter what location,” he added. “You could drop me off on Khabib’s doorstep, and that dude still will not fight. It’s defend or vacate. That dude needs to be stripped.”
News reports around Russia claim that Khabib has the option to charter a private jet to get him the United States in time for the April 18th fight.