UFC 249 might still be on, but it will be without one of its headlining bouts.
Lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC) revealed on Monday that he is back in his home country of Russia after the United Arab Emirates — which was believed to be the host UFC 249 on April 18 — closed its borders amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
The event was initially scheduled to be held in Brooklyn before the COVID-19 oubtreak forced public officials to ban mass gatherings. There has been no official word on a host site as of yet.
Upon his return to Russia, Nurmagomedov learned that the country will also be closing its borders.
“Currently, I am in Dagestan and I am training and preparing every day. Although I don’t know what am I preparing for,” he said on Instagram Live. “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.”
Nurmagomedov was finally set to face off against Tony Ferguson (25-3 MMA, 15-1 UFC) at the main event in the UAE. The bout had been scheduled on four previous occasions but was canceled due to injuries or weight-cutting issues.
UFC informed Nurmagomedov that they will proceed with UFC 249, which also features the co-main event strawweight bout between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas.
They will attempt to find a substitute fighter to face Ferguson in Nurmagomedov’s place. Jorge Masvidal immediately offered his services upon the news of Nurmagomedov’s stranding.