Dana White has been adamant about holding UFC 249 on April 18 despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that has wiped out sporting events and brought the world to a standstill.
The UFC president’s hell-bent persistence might be working, as ESPN reported Sunday night that the company is hoping to finalize the location for the April 18 show in the coming days. Although it’s still unclear where UFC 249 will be, ESPN additionally reported that the event will be held at a West Coast venue in the United States and that a tribal land is still in play, as tribal territories don’t abide by the rules of state athletic commissions.
The main event of the card is supposed to be UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson, although the champ is in Russia, and COVID-19 travel bans will make it hard for him to make the fight. Justin Gaethje is Nurmagomedov’s reported replacement, although a bout between he and Ferguson has yet to be made official.
This news of UFC 249 zeroing in on a venue comes after Nurmagomedov demanded to know the UFC 249 location, so he could still make good on his slated headliner against Ferguson.
“Right now, if they give me location and I can come out from Russia and I can go to any country,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN on Thursday. “U.S., Abu Dhabi, doesn’t matter. I’m going to fight, 100 percent. Just give me location. Every day, I send (UFC president) Dana White a message. ‘Hey, where’s my location.’
“This is not my mistake,” he continued, referring to the coronavirus outbreak. “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.”
The undefeated champion also discussed being open to fighting Ferguson in August if April 18 doesn’t work. With Nurmagomedov being Muslim and observing Ramadan fasting from April 23 to May 23, he would have enough time to train for Ferguson during the summer.
“June, July, two months, then August I can fight,” Nurmagomedov also told ESPN. “I hear the UFC wants to make a show in San Francisco [in August]. If not, let’s fight in Abu Dhabi middle of September. Or fight now, before Ramadan. April 18, we’re supposed to fight, but where? This is the question.”
Last Wednesday, Ferguson called for the UFC to strip Nurmagomedov of his title, adding that the champ “does not want to fight” and is “scared.”
During that same interview with ESPN, Ferguson sounded open to fighting Gaethje — or anyone else for that matter — in the case that the Khabib fight officially is dead in the water.
“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.”
If the Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson fight doesn’t happen, it will mark the fifth time that the fighters fail to enter the Octagon together.