A day after the door appeared to be slammed on Khabib Nurmagomedov’s title fight against Tony Ferguson proceeding as planned, the UFC lightweight champion cracked it back open a little.
Nurmagomedov told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he is “100 percent” willing to fight Ferguson on April 18, he just needs two things: the actual location of UFC 249 and a way out of Russia, which has closed its borders amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Khabib Nurmagomedov (@TeamKhabib) saying he never said he was out of 249, he just isn’t going to fly anywhere when he doesn’t know where he’s flying to. He also doesn’t believe getting out of Russia is as simple as others suggest. pic.twitter.com/pf5RSiwemG
— Brett Okamoto (@bokamotoESPN) April 2, 2020
“Right now, if they give me location and I can come out from Russia and I can go to any country,” Nurmagomedov said. “U.S., Abu Dhabi, doesn’t matter. I’m going to fight, 100 percent. Just give me location. Every day, I send Dana White a message. ‘Hey, where’s my location.’ This is not my mistake.
“Too many crazy stuff, too many questions and I don’t have answer. I understand people are upset because this fight, this is like a dream fight for fans. This is my dream fight. I lose money, I lose so much money. Nobody lose like I lose. Nobody. I lose so much things. I want to fight.”
That’s quite an about-face from an Instagram post from Nurmagomedov on Wednesday, in which the Russian appeared to state that he doesn’t want to be an exception if the world is following quarantine.
The key part of the post:
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, 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.
Nurmagomedov has been staying in his home of Dagestan, Russia, in the run-up to the fight and appeared to be effectively trapped in the country after Russian president Vladimir Putin’s government closed its borders.
Khabib blames stand-off on UFC’s lack of communication, UFC 249 location
In an Instagram Live rant blasting the UFC’s handling of the situation on Thursday, Nurmagomedov said he ended up in Russia after training in the U.S. because he was told the fight had been moved to Abu Dhabi.
Now, Nurmagomedov is left on the other side of the world as UFC scrambles to put together UFC 249, despite the event not even having a location right now. Meanwhile, Ferguson and Conor McGregor are claiming that the Russian ran away from a fight in which he was strongly favored (Nurmagomedov’s response to Ferguson’s suggestion he be stripped of his title, via ESPN: ‘He’s just a stupid guy”).
From MMA Junkie:
“Nobody knows location, but everyone wants me to fly somewhere,” Nurmagomedov said Thursday on Instagram Live. “I don’t understand this. UFC tried to find a location (almost one month ago); they don’t find. What about me? This is my mistake? UFC don’t send us location. Where (are) we going to fight? I don’t have location; that’s why I’m not going to fight.
“Where we going to fight? Nobody talks about this. Everybody now sit home, and they try to find someone (to blame). They have to put pressure on someone because people are bored. Soccer closed, hockey closd, NFL, NBA, soccer, Olympic games, European championships – everything is closed. Now Tony vs. Khabib, this is maybe closed, too. Now they have to push someone.”
If he doesn’t receive a UFC 249 location soon, Nurmagomedov said he’s still willing to fight Ferguson in August, per ESPN. Nurmagomedov, who is Muslim, reportedly plans to fast during Ramadan, which runs from April 23 to May 23 this year.
If that doesn’t work for UFC, Justin Gaethje has been rumored as a replacement for Nurmagomedov. The Russian even told ESPN he wouldn’t care if UFC made that an interim title match.
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