April 18th. UFC 249. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson for the UFC lightweight championship. That’s just one month from today. As of writing, we’ve still got no venue for the fifth pairing of the two, due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. The original venue of the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York has been shelved. Where to next? The UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. That’s also been struck off the record after the Nevada State Athletic Commission issued a ban on all combat sports events in the state.
Promotional president, Dana White, is adamant the event will take place – and even alluded to a venue off United States soil if needs be. After the indefinite postponement of three UFC Fight Night events in London, Columbus, and Portland earlier this week – UFC 249 remains the next card still intact. Conceivably – we’ve got three legitimate locations which could play host to both Nurmagomedov and Ferguson, and two sites with outside chances.
Conceivably, as of writing, the Oceanic state stands the most plausible chance of hosting UFC 249 on April 18th. The confirmed cases toll currently stands at twenty – quite low considering the daily increase in confirmed cases on a global level. The main reason New Zealand stands out, is because the promotion recently visited the country with a memorable lightweight pairing. At UFC Fight Night Auckland back in February – hometown hero, Dan Hooker narrowly edged out Paul Felder in a five-round back-and-forth. The UFC has ties to the Kiwis.
Another country recently visited by the promotion is Uruguay in South America. As of writing, the country currently has fifty confirmed cases nationwide. With a month still remaining until fight night – Khabib and Ferguson still have sufficient time to acclimatise to their surroundings. Like their tie to New Zealand – the UFC featured a flyweight title rematch between Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche in the headliner of UFC Fight Night Montevideo back in August of last year.
United Arab Emirates:
Yet another location which has hosted the landing of the Octagon recently. Khabib Nurmagomedov made his last Octagon appearance in the United Arab Emirates, in fact, submitting then-interim champion, Dustin Poirier at last September’s, UFC 242 in the nation’s capital of Abu Dhabi. The UAE currently has confirmed one-hundred and thirteen cases of the novel coronavirus, with eighty-seven cases currently active. Khabib’s fanbase in the Middle-East is obviously gigantic so that alone could play a factor in the promotion’s decision.
How fitting would a hometown return for reigning champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov be, especially considering the circumstances? The promotion has hosted two events in Russia; UFC Fight Night Moscow between Mark Hunt and Aleksei Oleinik, and UFC Fight Night Saint Petersburg between Alistair Overeem and Oleinik again. So far, Russia has tallied one-hundred and forty-seven cases of coronavirus. For a pay-per-view debut in the country, it’s undeniably rushed, but given the circumstances, it may be the UFC’s best bet.
According to reports, Saudi Arabia had offered lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov $100 million in the past to either rematch Conor McGregor, or make a boxing debut against Floyd Mayweather Jr. The promotion is yet to venture to Saudi Arabia, and an appearance in April is somewhat unlikely. As it stands, Saudi Arabia has confirmed one-hundred and seventy-one cases.