UFC President Dana White says the show must go on. But now it appears UFC 249 may go on without one of its star combatants.
On Instagram Monday, Khabib Nurmagomedov revealed that he’s unable to leave his native Russia because of travel restrictions stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. A short time later, ESPN reported that Tony Ferguson, Nurmagomedov’s scheduled opponent for the April 18 card, has now been offered a fight against Justin Gaethje.
In the video (available below), Nurmagomedov described how he got back to Russia. He claimed that UFC told him for certain that the fight would not happen in the United States and would likely take place in the United Arab Emirates.
However, when he tried to depart for the UAE earlier this month, authorities in the Middle Eastern country prevented him from arriving.
Currently, I am in Dagestan and I am training and preparing every day,” he said, according to a translation provided by RT Sports. “Although I don’t know what am I preparing for. 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.”
A winner in all 28 of his career fights, Nurmagomedov holds UFC’s lightweight (155 lb.) title, which he is set to defend against the 26-3 Ferguson, an American considered the top contender in the division.
“Are We Going to Hide for Months?”
Even with Nurmagomedov-Ferguson now in flux, it appears White will still try to salvage the pay-per-view event. That comes as nearly every other major professional sport in the United States, Europe, Australia, and parts of Asia have postponed or canceled seasons because of the crisis.
In an interview with Yahoo! Sports columnist Dan Wetzel, the outspoken UFC frontman left no question where he stands on the issue. Beginning earlier this month, the virus forced the closures of casinos and scores of other businesses. It also led to drastic changes in other business models.
“How long are we going to hide?” White told Wetzel. “Are we going to hide for months? Are we going to shut down the whole world for months? It’s crazy.”
UFC 249 Odds
As of Monday, UFC 249 is still a go, even if we don’t know the location.
What we do know is, if somehow Nurmagomedov and Ferguson can fight, oddsmakers like the Russian’s chances.
DraftKings lists Nurmagomedov as the -286 favorite, giving Ferguson +215 odds. That means, DraftKings oddsmakers think the Russian champion has a 74 percent chance of winning.
FanDuel sees it similarly, offering -290 on Nurmagomedov and +230 on Ferguson.
Other matches on the card have closer odds. For example, Ronaldo Souza is -152/130 at DraftKings and FanDuel respectively, while his opponent Uriah Hall is +120/+112. Rose Namajunas is -182/-184 versus Jessica Andrade (+142/+156), and Calvin Kattar is -250/-235 against Jeremy Stephens (+190/+196).