Khabib Nurmagomedov has conceded his high-profile clash with Tony Ferguson is likely to be called off for a fifth time, with the undefeated lightweight champion currently stuck in his homeland.
The Dagestan native, 31, was supposed to finally take on Ferguson at UFC 249 in Brooklyn on April 18, but the show has had to be moved because of the coronavirus outbreak.
UFC president Dana White has vowed the event – with a full card and behind closed doors - will go ahead, saying last week that he had a venue "99.9 per cent" locked in. White had been exploring a number of options in the United States and abroad, with the UAE said to be one such possibility.
Nurmagomedov has already returned to Russia to continue his training, but on Monday said he believed the UFC were planning to stage the event “with or without” him given the strict travel restrictions implemented in his country.
“So now I am hearing that they are looking to organise it with or without me. OK, go ahead,” said Nurmagomedov, via Instagram Live. “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.
“The UFC told me that this fight 100 per cent isn’t happening in the US, and even if it’s not happening in the Emirates it will happen on this side of Atlantic. We discussed everything with the UFC.
“Now I don’t really know what’s going on. It’s really hard to train and cut your weight when the whole world is locked down and you don’t know what you are preparing for. But it’s not the first time I face obstacles in my career.”
Nurmagomedov last fought in September, when he successfully defended his lightweight crown against Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi to move to 28-0 in professional mixed martial arts.
He has been slated to face Ferguson, the No. 1-ranked challenger whose record sits at 25-3-0, four times previously, but the fight never materialised for a variety of reasons.