Tony Ferguson Says Khabib ‘Scared and Running,’ Should Be Stripped of Title

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 06: (L-R) Opponents Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson face off during the UFC 249 press conference at T-Mobile Arena on March 06, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

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Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov were set to face off at UFC 249 despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forcing major changes to the event.

Now that Nurmagomedov has officially pulled out to remain in quarantine in his native Russia, Ferguson is calling on the UFC to strip the lightweight title from the reigning champion, telling ESPN’s Ariel Helwani that Nurmagomedov is “scared and running.”

UFC 249 is scheduled for April 18, and President Dana White has said the card will go on despite Nurmagomedov backing out. Ferguson is committed to staying on the fight card, though a new opponent has not been named.

“It doesn’t matter who we have. We’re gonna try to make this thing go,” Ferguson said. “At least some of the people in the world have a little bit of hope. The guys that are really doing it are the doctors and the nurses and the people taking care of everybody. If we can do our little bit of part to try and make something happen, I’m down with that.”

Finding a replacement for Nurmagomedov might be just the second-biggest problem for White. UFC 249 was originally booked at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, but that is no longer an option with the state instituting a “stay home” order while the city remains the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.

As White works to find a new location, Ferguson continued to throw verbal jabs at Nurmagomedov.

“He obviously knew what he could do to help save this card,” Ferguson said. “He didn’t want to take any of those chances. Everybody is taking risks trying to do it. He bailed out, man. It’s pretty hard to explain, but he bailed out, man.”

This is now the fifth time the two fighters have scheduled a bout only for it to get canceled before either could step into the Octagon.

Nurmagomedov has no regrets over the part he played this time around. He made that clear in a lengthy response posted to Instagram Wednesday afternoon.

“I understand everything and I’m definitely upset more than you to cancel the fight, probably like all others, I had many plans after the fight, but I can’t control it all,” Nurmagomedov wrote. “The greatest countries and the largest companies of our time are shocked by what is happening, every day the situation changes unpredictably. But Nurmagomedov still has to fight, is that what you saying? – Take care of yourself and put yourself in my shoes.”

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