Khabib remains on board for April 18’s UFC 249

The UFC is still planning on holding its big show next month and headliner Khabib Nurmagomedov is fully on board with that plan. It’s just a matter of where it will take place.

Nurmagomedov is scheduled to defend his lightweight title against Tony Ferguson in the main event of UFC 249 on April 18. The original plan was to hold the event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but UFC president Dana White said last weekend that was no longer possible due the coronavirus outbreak.

The UFC is currently hard at work trying to find a place for the card to take place. White said Monday on SportsCenter it will likely not happen in the United States. Nurmagomedov said Tuesday in an Instagram Live video with manager Ali Abdelaziz that he expects news in the coming days about where the event will be.

“We’ll see,” Nurmagomedov said. “Next couple days, Dana is gonna send us location. … First of all, most important thing is health. If we’re healthy, family is healthy, that’s the most important thing right now. We have to take care of ourselves.”

White was adamant Monday that the fight would still happen. The UFC had to postpone its next three events, shows that were scheduled for March 21, March 28 and April 11. UFC 249 is the next pay-per-view event, and Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson is a huge fight — one that has been put together four times before and fell apart each time for various reasons.

“Tony Ferguson versus Khabib Nurmagomedov is still on,” White said on SportsCenter. “That will happen. We’re going to follow these guidelines, not have more than 10 people in a room. We’re hoping this all clears up by April, and this fight is going to happen. Whatever it takes, probably not in the United States, but this fight is going to happen.”

Nurmagomedov, who is coming off a third-round submission win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 last September in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, said he would not mind fighting in front of an empty arena if it comes to that. He said he believes the UFC could put on an entire card with fewer than 100 people in the venue.

“We don’t need too many people inside the arena,” Nurmagomedov said. “Just close the arena and that’s it.”

Nurmagomedov and Abdelaziz proposed Zaire, where the famous Rumble in the Jungle bout between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman took place in 1974. If Nurmagomedov had his way, though, the fight would be in the U.S. Nurmagomedov traveled from his native Dagestan to San Jose, California, in December for a training camp at American Kickboxing Academy.

If not, Nurmagomedov said he’s willing to go “anyplace” to fight Ferguson.

“I don’t want to hold up the lightweight division,” Nurmagomedov said. “We have to fight with Tony Ferguson and know who is the next contender — this is very important. Not for me. For UFC, for fans. This is very important for lightweight division.”