(Reuters) – UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov says his fight against American Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 is off as he is in quarantine in Russia amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Dagestan native Nurmagomedov was scheduled to face Ferguson on April 18 at the Barclays Center in New York but the venue had already been ruled out because of the virus outbreak.
Nurmagomedov said on his Instagram page that “the whole world should be in quarantine”.
“Governments of all countries, famous people around the world urge people to follow all safety requirements … and Khabib is the only one relieved of all obligations and must demonstrate free will and train flying around the world, for the sake of fight?
“I understand everything and I’m definitely more upset than you to cancel the fight. Probably like all others, I had many plans after the fight, but I can’t control it all.”
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson had previously been booked to fight on four occasions but each bout was cancelled because of health or fitness issues.
Ferguson said Nurmagomedov was “scared” and should be stripped of his title.
“He was in Abu Dhabi, he had his chance to be able to come back before the borders were closed in Russia,” Ferguson told ESPN.
“He decided to go back to Dagestan, did not finish his camp.
“The guy does not want to fight. He’s scared, he’s running. He should be stripped of his title.”
The UFC has said it was keen to host the event at a new location on the same date and Ferguson confirmed he would stay on the card.
“It doesn’t matter who we have. We’re gonna try to make this thing go,” Ferguson added. “At least some of the people in the world have a little bit of hope.”
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford