UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov yesterday ruled himself out of fighting Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on 18 April.
The Dagestan mauler said he will not be leaving Russia as he self-isolates amid the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic which has gripped the globe.
Unsurprisingly, challenger and former interim UFC lightweight champion Ferguson had plenty to say in response.
Khabib indicates that he will remain in quarantine and not be fighting on April 18.
— ESPN MMA (@espnmma) April 1, 2020
Nurmagomedov took to Instagram to announce his decision. “Staying home in quarantine and reading the reaction of people to the situation around my fight, it turns out that the whole world should be in quarantine,” he wrote to his followers.
“Governments of all countries, famous people around the world urge people to follow all safety requirements in order to limit the spread of the disease, to save people, and Khabib is the only one relieved of all obligations and must demonstrate free will and train flying around the world, for the sake of fight?
“I understand everything and I’m definitely upset more than you to cancel the fight, probably like all others, I had many plans after the fight, but I can’t control it all. The greatest countries and the largest companies of our time are shocked by what is happening, every day the situation changes unpredictably. But Khabib still has to fight, is that what you saying? Take care of yourself and put yourself in my shoes.”
Once it was confirmed that “The Eagle” was ruling himself out of competing at UFC 249 – an event which is still yet to have its location confirmed – Ferguson called for the UFC to strip Nurmagomedov of his lightweight championship.
“It’s defend or vacate,” Ferguson told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani. “That dude needs to be stripped [of his title].
“You have an obligation. You signed on the dotted line to represent your country. That’s what you said, right? He ran, bro. He listened to his pops and did everything he could to avoid an ass-whooping.
“That’s my opinion. Nobody else deserves that ass-whooping – that’s McNuggets and Team Tiramisu, Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov.”
Earlier in the interview, Helwani asked Ferguson if he was interested in a fight with Justin Gaethje, who is rumoured to be the man who could step into Nurmagomedov’s shoes if “El Cucuy” agrees to the bout.
While Ferguson initially mocked Gaethje’s UFC record, he suggested that he is open to taking on a different opponent if UFC 249 is to continue.
“It doesn’t matter who we have. We’re gonna try to make this thing go,” Ferguson said. “At least some of the people in the world have a little bit of hope.
“The guys that are really doing it are the doctors and the nurses and the people taking care of everybody. If we can do our little bit of part to try and make something happen, I’m down with that.”