Find out the latest on COVID-19's impact on the sports world and when sports are returning by subscribing to Breaking News push notifications in the Sports and COVID-19 section.
Warning: Story contains coarse language
UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov revealed Monday he is stuck in Russia due to the coronavirus pandemic, putting his UFC 249 title defense against Tony Ferguson on April 18 in doubt.
Nurmagomedov flew home to Dagestan after learning his fight wouldn't take place in the U.S., but he's now unable to leave due to a travel ban instituted by his country.
"We were training in the (American Kickboxing Academy) without any information regarding the fight, where and how is it going to happen," the champion said on Instagram Live, according to a translation by RT.com.
"Then the UFC told us that the fight 100% isn't happening in the States. And they said that 99% that it will happen in (the United Arab) Emirates, Abu Dhabi."
Nurmagomedov said his team decided to fly to the Emirates approximately one month before the date of the fight, but impending travel restrictions in the country prompted his camp to return home shortly thereafter.
UFC president Dana White has insisted the blockbuster bout will go ahead despite the promotion being forced to cancel its last three events. Nurmagomedov said the UFC wants UFC 249 to proceed even if he can't be on the card.
"So now I am hearing that they are looking to organize it with or without me. OK, go ahead," he said.
"Everyone should follow the laws. I am not against it, I know that fighters need to feed their families and pay their bills. I know how hard it is for the fighter. Unless they fight they aren't getting any money.
"I am even hearing that they are looking for an opponent for Tony, because he is in the States and I am here in Russia. But I am here not on my own will."
Top contender Justin Gaethje is the replacement opponent who's been offered to Ferguson, though it hasn't been agreed upon nor finalized, sources told ESPN's Ariel Helwani. The location for the event is also reportedly yet to be decided.
But Ferguson apparently has no desire to face anyone but the 155-pound king.
Nurmagomedov and Ferguson have never fought despite previously being booked to do so four times. The title fight was arguably the most anticipated bout of 2020.