UFC president Dana White has accepted the blame for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s latest title defence falling through. The undefeated Nurmagomedov was scheduled to defend his 155lb crown against Tony Ferguson last month in the main event of UFC 249.
However, the pair’s long-awaited meeting – which has been five years in the making – didn’t end up coming fruition due to the coronavirus outbreak.
As COVID-19 restrictions began to take a hold of the United States and led the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to pull the plug on the card, Nurmagomedov left his San Jose training camp and travelled to the United Arab to continue his preparations.
‘The Eagle’ and his team travelled to the UAE on the advice of the UFC, who informed him his long-awaited clash with Ferguson would likely take place there.
Nurmagomedov, however, was denied entry and forced to return to his native Russia.
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Shortly after Nurmagomedov returned to his homeland, the Russian government introduced a blanket travel ban to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which proved to be the final nail in the coffin of his clash with Ferguson.
Surprisingly, Nurmagomedov was criticised for returning to Russia in the midst of a global pandemic.
White believes the flak the 31-year-old received was completely unjustified and has laid the blame for the most-anticipated fight in the history of the lightweight division at his own feet.
He told BT Sport: “There was a lot of questioning Khabib, people were saying ‘Oh he got trapped in Russia’ or whatever; what he said is absolutely true.
“None of us saw coming what happened and how fast it was rapidly changing and the world was literally changing by the day.
“We all made some bad decisions that got him stuck in Moscow. It wasn’t just him, we all did. I take responsibility for that too.”
From the ashes of Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson, which has now fallen through a staggering five times, has rise battle of fan favourites between the latter of Justin Gaethje.
Ferguson and Gaethje will lock horns with one another in an interim lightweight title fight early on Sunday in the main event of UFC 249, which will take place behind closed doors at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.
And with Ferguson vs Gaethje now in the books, White is refusing to dwell on the collapse of UFC 249’s original main event.
“It happened,” the UFC chief said. “And you know what we get out of that? We get Gaethje versus Ferguson, which is gonna be absolutely ridiculous.”
Despite currently observing Ramadan, Nurmagomedov – who was last in action in September 2019 – is eyeing a summer return to the Octagon.
“I can fight anytime, Ramadan finish 23 May,” Nurmagomedov wrote on Instagram. “July I’m gonna be ready. Stop talking about me, this is coronatime, when Khabibtime come I smash all of them.”
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