One of the biggest voids many folks are feeling during this crisis is the lack of sports. Since mid-April all major sports leagues and promotions have canceled their competitions. But one organization has been adamant on holding an event- the UFC.
The UFC, the largest mixed martial arts promotion in the world, has already canceled three of their events. But their president Dana White has repeatedly stated that their April 18th card, UFC 249, headlined by lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and contender Tony Ferguson, will go on as planned.
The highly anticipated bout was originally slated to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. However, with the New York area being the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis, the UFC has considered alternatives like holding the event in Abu Dhabi (which has since been nixed) or at the UFC’s own private gym in Las Vegas called The APEX center, where they have a small auditorium that seats about 200 people. The plan would be to televise the card on Pay Per View, with no public audience present at the bout.
White has come under fire for insisting that this card be held, even if it’s off limits to a public crowd. But, he has continued to state that continuing sports would be a welcome reprieve in our current reality.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov was stranded in Russia and likely unable to compete at UFC 249, where he was expected to defend his title against No. 1 contender Tony Ferguson. That revelation kicked up a hornet’s nest of haters and contrarians, saying that Khabib was avoiding a fight with Ferguson, such that the lightweight champion felt the need to respond.
In an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Khabib made an impassioned defense of his insistence on staying in his native Dagestan in Russia, where all flights are grounded. But, he offered up some hope that UFC 249 could still happen somewhere in the world very soon.
Meanwhile his opponent, the intense Mexican-American Tony Ferguson, has continued to train in Big Bear Lake, California, planning on fighting whoever the UFC honchos put in front of him.
Here’s a look back at our own interview with headliner Tony Ferguson, discussing how he almost got into it with heavyweight Fabricio Werdum: