During a quiet Saturday night, Twitter user @arielheIvani dropped a bombshell: UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fight against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 was reportedly back on after UFC president Dana White reached a deal with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Nurmagomedov has been effectively trapped in his homeland of Dagestan, Russia, likely ending any chance of his appearance at UFC 249.
#BREAKING: Dana White and Vladimir Putin have reached an agreement on travel arrangements for UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov to come to the United States. He will fight Tony Ferguson. It’s happening folks. #UFC249 will go on as scheduled April 18.— arieiheivani (@arieIheIvani) April 5, 2020
However, you might notice that @arielheIvani is not @arielhelwani, or ESPN MMA reporter Ariel Helwani. The report was your classic random account being manipulated to look like a real journalist, and it succeeded, gathering thousands of retweets.
Eventually, White himself stepped in to deny the fake report, though it’s unclear if he actually knows who he’s talking to.
White confirmed Nurmagomedov is fully out of UFC 249, despite the fighter’s insistence that all he needs is a location to fight. White even offered up some actual news, saying he will announce the full UFC 249 card on Monday.
Absolutely NOT true!!! The card is happening but @TeamKhabib is out. I will announce the entire card tomorrow.— Dana White (@danawhite) April 6, 2020
That is an extremely unusual way to reveal something big, but those are just the times we live in. Rumors have swirled about Nurmagomedov’s replacement on the card — Justin Gaethje seems to be the favorite — but the biggest question remains where exactly White is going to hold this thing on April 18.
White’s friend, President Donald Trump, has extended guidelines of avoiding crowds larger than 10 people through April 30, making even a scaled-down UFC event impossible. White previously had an agreement to hold another event at an American Indian casino in Oklahoma, but even that fell through.
Odds are that if White wants to hold UFC 249 as scheduled, he’ll have to go out of the country to do it. We’ll see what he announces Monday.
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