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Morning Report: Despite coronavirus concerns, Javier Mendez ‘very optimistic’ UFC 249 will take place

Javier Mendez
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

In recent weeks, the coronavirus has shut down nearly all sporting events. Even the UFC, who attempted to keep on keeping on in the face of the global pandemic, was finally forced to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and postponed their next three scheduled cards. Things then got worse when yesterday, the New York Commission officially ruled out Brooklyn as a location for the card, meaning now the UFC needs to find a new home for the most snake-bitten fight in MMA history and they only have a month to do so.

But amid all this chaos and uncertainty, it’s still business as usual for the UFC lightweight champion. Speaking with Submission Radio recently, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s coach Javier Mendez says that “The Eagle” is still training to defend his title, the only difference is the gym has taken extra precautions to ensure Khabib can make it to the fight healthy.

“Well, we’re training like usual, except that we’re shut down, the gym is shut down by the local politicians,” Mendez said. “The mayor shut us down, so everybody shut down. If you’re a necessity-type business, you can stay open, you know, un-necessity-type, which is my business, you have to close. So, we’re closed at the present time. We can stay open with a very few people, and it’s Khabib only and the people that he’s training with for the fight and a couple of other people, but at the present time there’s hardly nobody here, because that’s what we have to do.”

“As far as the motivation for the fight, it’s still the same. We’re just waiting to see what’s going to happen. But we’re training like we have a fight, cause we need to.”

They certainly do. Tony Ferguson is widely considered to be the most dangerous threat to Khabib’s title and, despite the dire circumstances, UFC President Dana White insists that the organization will make sure that UFC 249 takes place. Given Dana’s stance, now it’s just a matter of logistics and Mendez feels confident the situation will get resolved and the show will go on.

“They just have to find the right scenario, the right place that doesn’t have a lockdown on this horrible flu epidemic and pandemic that’s going around,” Mendez said. “We’ll see what happens, but obviously Dana has to be optimistic, has to give the fighters hope, and he’s doing everything in his power to make these things happen, and I’m very optimistic that he’s gonna get it accomplished.”

Still, this is not just a local commission issue. The coronavirus is a global pandemic, meaning the UFC can’t easily relocate the event to somewhere else and they’re on a short timeline to get things done. UFC 249 is scheduled to take place on April 18 and while Mendez says Khabib is willing to fight anywhere the UFC can make it happen, they will need to know a location before fight week or else the fight will have to be postponed as well, because fight week is a crucial week in Khabib’s preparation and they can’t risk screwing that up with travel.

“For me it’s the date where the real hard weight cutting comes into effect, and that’s the week of, because that’s when he really has to struggle, that’s when it’s really important, that’s when he’s putting his health in danger,” Mendez said. “But at the present time, he’s training like he’s fighting. His weight’s good, his sparring is fantastic, you know, so everything is great, you guys, everything is great. Just a matter of send me location, right?”

Well, not just location. The opponent has to be willing to accommodate these strange times as well. But Mendez believes that won’t be an issue with Tony Ferguson, because “El Cucuy” is cut from the same cloth as Khabib.

“Tony, I think he’s in the same boat as Khabib,” Mendez said. “Tony’s gonna go, ‘screw that, I’m fighting. I don’t care where I gotta go, I’m fighting that dude, I’ll fight him at his house.’ That’s what I think.

“Tony ain’t gonna stop for nothing, Tony’s a true warrior, man. I mean you can’t take nothing away from that man, he’s a true warrior. He’s a fighter through and through, and nothing’s gonna make him back down outside of something that’s not in his control. So, I don’t look at that happening, cause I don’t look at Tony saying, ‘well, I’m not gonna fight that dude’. I don’t think so, he’s a real fighter. He’s gonna go where he needs to go, just like Khabib is. Both of these guys are real fighters, and it’s going to come down to me, in my opinion, who is gonna do the most damage to who, cause they’re not gonna break each other. Khabib’s not gonna break him and Tony’s not gonna break Khabib. So, it’s who does the most damage.”

But, if something were to prevent Tony from being ready? After all, Khabib vs. Tony has been cancelled four times before, the last time because Ferguson tripped on a studio set and injured his knee. If some unfortunate circumstance like that were to happen again, or if for some reason Ferguson didn’t want to accept the short-notice changes, Mendez says Khabib will fight whoever the UFC puts in front of him, and Ferguson and Khabib can try again afterwards.

“Let’s say they find a place for us to go, and let’s just say Tony doesn’t want to go,” Mendez said. “Khabib’s gonna want to fight whoever they put in front him. Like, whoever. Like, Gaethje. Like, Charles Oliveira. Someone, whoever. He’s like, give me somebody, you know? That’s what Khabib’s attitude will be, give me somebody. If Tony doesn’t wanna fight, give me somebody, and then we’ll go after Tony again when he is ready.”


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The A-Side Live Chat.

Every wheel kick finish in UFC history.

Khabib on his childhood in Dagestan.

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Heavy Hands. Discussing all the happenings from UFC Brasilia.

Fights Gone By. Discussing UFC Brasilia and coronavirus.


To the moon.

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Call out.

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Klidson Abreu (15-4) vs. Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-6); UFC Kazakhstan, June 23.


Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.



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