The headline event of UFC 249 appears to have been thrown into doubt after reigning lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov returned home to Russia just weeks before he is scheduled to fight challenger Tony Ferguson.
UFC president Dana White has been resolute that the April 18 fight will take place despite the impact the global coronavirus pandemic has had on the sporting calendar.
The fight was initially intended to take place at the Barclays Centre in New York, although it was cancelled by the venue due to the scale of the coronavirus outbreak in the city.
“The event will not take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn as previously announced,” a statement read.
“The decision was made in accordance with guidance issued by the New York State Athletic Commission, as well as in accordance with restrictions by New York State limiting large public gatherings.”
The UFC has been working on finding an alternative venue for the bout, although the fight now seems unlikely to take place after Nurmagomedov’s manager, Rizvan Magomedov, confirmed that the undefeated Russian had travelled back to his native country.
Nurmagomedov had earlier taken to Instagram to air his frustration with the UFC over a lack of clarification around his scheduled fight with Ferguson.
“We can’t understand what is happening at all,” he wrote alongside a picture of himself and the son of a training partner.
“Where are we fighting and are we fighting at all?’ he asked. ‘What about the weight and the venue of the battle? UFC 249 what are you?”
Should the fight officially be scrapped, it will be the fifth time that a bout between lightweight rivals Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has been booked only to fail to take place.