Khabib
Khabib Nurmagomedov, undisputed lightweight champion of UFC 249, had enthralled the Abu Dhabi audience during his title-fight against Dustin Poirier last year. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Despite the Coronavirus pandemic having brought the sporting world almost to a standstill, including postponement of major events like the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, UFC boss Dana White is adamant that it will not disrupt the franchise’s forthcoming schedule of fights.

April is a major month for the UFC with a blockbuster fight between reigning, undisputed lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and challenger Tony Ferguson being penciled in for the 18th - with Abu Dhabi being mentioned as a possible venue.

The huge UFC 249 event in New York has been in serious doubt following the outbreak, which has already led to the cancellation of three UFC events in March. White, however, stressed that the event would go on behind closed doors for a TV audience and in a new location (country).

“Healthy and safety is something we’ve been doing long before the coronavirus and we’ll be doing it long after the coronavirus is gone,” he said. “This is just normal for us.

“I will get this done.”

The boast came during an Instagram live chat with MMA Junkie, one of the most popular sites for the rapidly spreading sport.

“I do (know where it is),” he said.”But I’m not ready to tell you yet. I know lots of things. There’s not going to be any fans there. It’s going to be a closed event.

“Trust me, Khabib has been telling me every day, ‘Send location’,” White told ESPN. “I have it. It’s 99.9 per cent. On April 18, we are having this fight.”

White also revealed that UFC 249 will feature a full card of 13 fights with Russia, Mexico and even Abu Dhabi - the UAE capital which hosted the UFC title-fight between Khabib and Dustin Poirier, being touted as venues.

Khabib’s coach Mendez said: “I do see a probable scenario, like Khabib’s father said and that’s fighting in Abu Dhabi. We haven’t been prepared for it but if that’s where it goes it makes sense.”

This may seem like wishful thinking on the part of the Nurmagomedov camp, given the ultra-tight restrictions having been imposed the UAE governement which also led to the cancellation of the $35 million Dubai World Cup meeting earlier this week.

White acknowledges that it will need a miracle to pull off UFC 249 but remained adamant in his stance to prove that the Ultimate Fighting Championships has more resilience than the COVID-19.

And he’s taking every precaution to ensure that if it happens, it will, without an incident. “Everybody who is going to be involved in this thing is going to be because they want to be, not because they have to be or they have to do anything,” he said on the Instagram chat.

“Believe me: We didn’t just start thinking about safety when the coronavirus popped up. Health and safety, these are things that normal businesses that are out there right now don’t necessarily have to think about on a daily basis.”

Among the other fights scheduled for UFC 249 is the exciting co-main event women’s bout between Jessica Andrade and Rose Namajunas.

Top UFC match-ups between Magomed Ankalaev versus Ion Cutelaba, Islam Makhachev versus. Alexander Hernandez and Jeremy Stephens versus Calvin Kattar and also scheduled.