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Khabib Nurmagomedov fires back at criticism over not fighting Tony Ferguson at UFC 249

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Khabib Nurmagomedov had every intention of defending his lightweight title against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, but there was one major problem plaguing the fight.

Nobody knew where the event would take place.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the globe with more than 50,000 deaths worldwide, UFC president Dana White remains adamant about promoting the upcoming card on April 18. Unfortunately with the majority of the United States shut down, finding a location for UFC 249 has been a struggle to say the least.

“We talk about where we going to fight,” Nurmagomedov said during an Instagram Live session on Thursday. “U.S., Europe, Emirates, Asia, whatever, but nobody knows location, but everybody wants I fly somewhere. UFC don’t show us location. Where we going to fight? This is what I’m talking about.

“I don’t understand this. The UFC tried to find a location last almost one month. They don’t find. What about me? This is my mistake?”

The undefeated Russian explained in detail how he was initially informed that UFC 249 would be moving from the original location in Brooklyn, N.Y., to a new home in Abu Dhabi, which is the same location where Nurmagomedov defended his title this past September.

Like most countries around the world, Abu Dhabi eventually reacted to the spread of the deadly virus by shutting down all non-essential businesses and asking people to stay home.

“We left San Jose, when we landed in Dubai, we land 8 p.m. at night, and they say 12 a.m. they closed gate,” Nurmagomedov explained. “We tried to go in but this is impossible. They say this is impossible. Then I said OK, whatever happens, we’re going to go to Dagestan and we’re going to keep training. After Dubai, we come to Dagestan, and we keep training.

“Right now, I finished my training. Everyday I’m training, and I’m waiting for location. But they don’t send it. All gates are closed. Russia gate closed. U.S. gate closed. Everywhere is closed. Everybody is sent home, quarantined. All government. Famous people. Even Dana [White]. Where is Dana? Everybody is at their house. Everybody stay home. Everybody in quarantine. All governments, all presidents, all famous people. Everybody talk about, ‘Please people stay home,’ because people die everyday. Thousands of people die, and No. 1 country right now [for coronavirus] is the U.S.”

In many ways, Nurmagomedov feels like he’s been made the scapegoat because the blame is being placed at his feet for not fighting at UFC 249. He’s quick to point out that the global pandemic is the reason why the event is no longer happening in New York, and the UFC is being forced to scramble to try and find a new location with two weeks remaining until the fights take place.

“You know what’s interesting? My name is Khabib, I am not coronavirus,” Nurmagomedov said. “My name is not coronavirus. Dana (White) is Dana. Tony Ferguson is Tony Ferguson. My name is Khabib. But No. 1 thing that makes me crazy is when people say I pull out or I do something. I (don’t) understand this. I’m still training since December. I train very hard since December. I come to U.S. because UFC give me location, New York, Barclays Center. I come to U.S. I train 40 days, then when everything goes crazy, they say U.S. is 100 percent no fight.

“So we move to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, why? Because they told me 99 percent it’s going to be in Dubai. Like my last training camp, I come to U.S., I train with coach Javier [Mendez] at AKA for 55 days, then we move to Abu Dhabi because fight was in Abu Dhabi. That’s why we moved to Abu Dhabi.

“I understand. If Abu Dhabi, no problem. We did this before, we’re going to do this one more time. Let’s go Abu Dhabi. We come, they close gate. This is not my problem. I don’t make mistake. One more time, I want to say I am Khabib, I am not coronavirus.”

On Wednesday after Nurmagomedov made the announcement that he wouldn’t be fighting at UFC 249, Ferguson took aim at him saying the lightweight champion was “scared” to face him and that he should be stripped of his title.

Meanwhile, Ferguson is now rumored for a potential showdown with Justin Gaethje but that fight is running into the same problems with no location confirmed for the event.

“If [Tony Ferguson] talks sh*t about me, what about you?” Nurmagomedov said. “You say, ‘Oh I don’t have location, I’m not going to fight.’ OK same situation that I have. I don’t have location. Give me location. Where are we going to fight? Nobody talks about this.

“Everybody now sit home and they try to find someone, they have to put pressure on someone. Because people [are bored]. Soccer closed, hockey closed, NHL, NBA, soccer, Olympic games, European championship, everything is closed. Now Tony vs. Khabib, this is maybe closed, too. Now they have to boo someone.”

With Ramadan starting on April 23, Nurmagomedov doesn’t expect to compete again until the end of summer – assuming the world has returned to some sense of normalcy following the coronavirus pandemic.

The champ has heard about a couple of potential landing spots that could serve as the home for a fight against Ferguson, but he admits that’s the least of his concerns right now.

“So much questions, but no answers, but we’ll see what’s going to happen,” Nurmagomedov said. “I hear UFC (is working) on making a show in San Francisco in August. This one is very good. Maybe in August everything is maybe finished, but nobody knows. I hear they’re going to make show in Abu Dhabi in middle of September. September in Abu Dhabi. August in San Francisco.

“Maybe, I don’t know. If now they can’t make show, of course after Ramadan is going to be August. But right now in U.S. everything goes crazy. Nobody knows when this thing’s going to go down. Nobody knows. Maybe June. Maybe July. But for sure, April, May is going to be crazy months. Too much questions. Right now, it’s time to think about [health]. Stay healthy. Take care of yourself.”

The way Nurmagomedov sees it, with hundreds of thousands of people infected by COVID-19, and the death toll rising each and everyday, concerns should be placed there rather than his fight.

“Nobody talk about nothing,” Nurmagomedov said. “They only talk about one situation. One fight. Now they want someone to push. I don’t understand this.

“No. 1 thing right now, a lot of people, thousands of people everyday die in the world because of coronavirus. All world closed. All gates closed. It’s like nobody can go in, nobody can go out.”