As restrictions across the United States, and the world, continue to escalate, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has reportedly returned home to Russia.
Nurmagomedov is currently slated to face Tony Ferguson in the UFC 249 main event, which is scheduled for April 18. The bouts initial location in Brooklyn, New York, has been scratched. The New York State Athletic Commission notified officials that the event would not be allowed to take place anywhere in the state on that date.
UFC president Dana White has been steadfast that he will not cancel the event, though the April 18 date has been quickly fading as governments around the globe have enacted increasing restrictions on public gatherings. White most recently said that the fight might have to move outside of the United States, but even that doesn’t look likely.
The U.S. Department of State on March 19 issued a Level 4 travel advisory, which restricts all international travel and urges U.S. Citizens to return home if at all possible.
State Department Level 4 Travel Advisory:
The Department of State advises U.S. citizens to avoid all international travel due to the global impact of COVID-19. In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel. Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice. Airlines have cancelled many international flights and several cruise operators have suspended operations or cancelled trips. If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe.
Nurmagomedov had been training at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif., but the state has gone into a stay-in-place lockdown. Russian news publication TASS on Sunday reported that Nurmagomedov had left California and returned home to Russia.
White has frequently stated that he and the UFC have complied with all governmental requests, only shutting down events when the restrictions made it impossible to move forward. The recent travel advisory restrictions because of the pandemic would appear to erect a barrier that White won’t be able to clear, at least by the initially planned upon date.
While much more important matters than sport are at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now, it is looking more and more likely that, at best, the UFC 249 bout between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson will be delayed.
The fight has been booked on four prior occasions, only to be derailed by one incident or another, making it one of the most anticipated bouts in UFC history.