Khabib Nurmagomedov stuck in Russia, hears new Tony Ferguson opponent sought

How Khabib's travel restrictions affect UFC 249 (2:01)

Ariel Helwani breaks down an opponent who can potentially replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is unable to leave Russia, in a fight vs. Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. (2:01)

It appears as though the highly-anticipated Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson fight is on the verge of not happening ... again.

Nurmagomedov, on an Instagram live chat Monday morning, confirmed he is back home in Dagestan, Russia, but is now unable to leave to compete on April 18 against Ferguson at UFC 249 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the travel bans that have closed borders across the world.

"We were training at (American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California) without any information regarding the fight -- where and how is it going to happen," he said (via RT Sport translation). "Then the UFC told us that the fight 100 percent isn't happening in the States. And they said that 99 percent that it will happen in (the United Arab) Emirates -- Abu Dhabi.

"After talking to the UFC, we decided to fly over to the Emirates a month before the fight. I don't remember the exact date -- it was (March) 19 or 20. I'll have to check. But when we landed in Emirates, we learned that they are going to close (the) borders and no one will be able to leave or fly in with (the) exception of residents.

"So, we had to fly back to Russia. Currently, I am in Dagestan and I am training and preparing every day, although I don't know what am I preparing for, because after we came to Russia we also learned that the borders are going to be locked. Same like in the States, same like in Europe, Emirates -- everywhere. The whole world is in quarantine right now."

According to sources, the UFC is aware of Nurmagomedov's status and have now begun looking at alternate plans for the April 18 card, which they are still determined to put on.

Ferguson, per sources, has been offered a fight against top contender Justin Gaethje. However, that fight has not been agreed upon nor finalized. Neither has a location for the event.

Gaethje (21-2) has won his last three fights in a row. He was in talks to fight Conor McGregor on July 11 in Las Vegas before the pandemic put a halt to the UFC's upcoming plans, sources say.

The UFC, sources say, are confident they can now hold the event in the United States, but that would mean it would have to be made up of American-based fighters.

In his live chat, Nurmagomedov hinted at the fact that the UFC is looking at booking Ferguson against another opponent. Nurmagomedov and Gaethje share the same management.

"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. The UFC told me that this fight 100 percent isn't happening in the USA, and even if it's not happening in the Emirates, it will happen on this side of (the) Atlantic. We discussed everything with the UFC. By that time, I already spent five weeks of hard training at AKA.

"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."

UFC has also briefly considered trying to book Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal for April 18 but that is not looking likely at the moment, sources say.

Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik is another fight the UFC has discussed adding to this card, if it happens in the United States.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced Saturday that Russia would close its borders on Monday in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This would also preclude Ferguson from entering the country to fight Nurmagomedov there.

This would mark the fifth time the UFC has officially booked Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson only to see it fall through. UFC 249 was originally scheduled for Brooklyn, New York.