Khabib Nurmagomedov has revealed that he is stuck in Russia due to travel restrictions and it doesn't look like he'll be able to get out of the country any time soon. That means his highly-anticipated lightweight championship matchup with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 is unlikely to happen. It will be the fifth time the two fighters have had a proposed fight between them canceled.
To reiterate, this would be the fifth time these guys will have to cancel a fight. Nurmagomedov has backed out twice and Ferguson has had to back out twice. This would be Khabib's third withdrawal. It's insane how this matchup has never happened and you wouldn't be crazy to think it's cursed.
Here's a brief history of their doomed matchups:
Khabib Nurmagomedov-Tony Ferguson Fight History
Back in December of 2015, the pair were supposed to tangle on the card of The Ultimate Fighter: Team McGregor vs. Team Faber Finale. But Nurmagomedov pulled out with a rib injury and Edson Barboza took his place. Ferguson submitted Barboza in the third round.
In April of 2016, Ferguson and Khabib were supposed to headline an event that ultimately became UFC on Fox: Teixeira vs. Evans. The fight was supposed to be a lightweight title eliminator but Ferguson backed out due to a lung issue.
The fight was rescheduled for March 4, 2017 at UFC 209, as a co-main event. Nurmagomedov pulled out this time, as he had medical issues due to his weight cut. Doctors pulled him from the fight on weigh-in day, marking the closest this matchup came to actually happening.
The fight was again rescheduled, this time for more than a year later on April 7, 2018 at UFC 223. It fell apart less than a week before it was scheduled, as Ferguson pulled out with a knee injury on April 1. Nurmagomedov went on to beat Al Iaquinta in the main event to win the vacant UFC lightweight title.
So that's how we got here. Now Khabib is the undefeated lightweight champion at 28-0, and Ferguson is a former interim lightweight champ (he lost that belt due to injury) who hasn't lost in 12 fights over almost seven years. Ferguson (25-3) is 36 and not getting any younger. This fight needs to happen for him sooner or later or we'll always wonder "what if?"
If this cancellation really does happen, why even schedule the bout again? It's been an absurd journey that has only ended in disappointment for fans and for the UFC. There's absolutely no reason to be optimistic that the fight will ever actually happen.