While Conor McGregor has been urging an abundance of caution over travel and social distancing for the citizens of Ireland, he’s also inserted himself fully into the discourse involving Khabib Nurmagomedov’s potential withdrawal from the main event of UFC 249. After attempting to travel to the UAE to prepare for the PPV card’s potential change of venue, the lightweight champion ended up getting turned away at the border and flying on to Russia. There he promptly found himself caught up in the nation’s increasing travel bans, as Russia – along with much of the rest of the world – attempts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
As a result, Khabib has released statements suggesting he may be forced to withdraw from his planned fight with Tony Ferguson. A move the McGregor was quick to pounce upon, claiming the ‘Eagle’ “scurried out of the U.S to home.” He also posted that he was “in fight shape right now.”
When McGregor’s longtime coach John Kavanagh responded to a recent poll asking whether Ferguson should fight Gaethje or wait for Khabib with “Maybe there’s a third option...” fans immediately took note.
If hopes were raised, however, the head coach of SBG Ireland has been quick to dash them. Kavanagh spoke ESPN shortly after his Twitter tease, telling Ariel Helwani that there was absolutely “no chance” that McGregor would be filling in at UFC 249. Perhaps not even any time in the next few months, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic is still in full swing.
“We had a bit of fun on April Fools’ (Day) with that, but no. No chance of that,” Kavanagh told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Instagram Live (transcript via the Score). “Ireland is on a pretty strict lockdown. Me and Conor have no physical interactions. There’s no physical interaction at the gyms. Gyms are shut down. ... To try and rush that together, I just don’t think it would be smart, because he certainly isn’t fighting so that he has food for the next six months. That’s not where he is in his life.”
After defeating Donald Cerrone back in January, Dana White was quick to push the idea that McGregor would be next in line to fight the winner of Khabib vs. Ferguson. However, Nurmagomedov himself seemed dismissive of the idea if he retained his title. And McGregor had sounded less and less interested in waiting until the fall when Nurmagomedov would likely be interested in fighting again. That could have meant a bout against Justin Gaethje for the Irishman, sometime over the summer. Clearly though, all those plans have but sent into disarray.
At the moment, where, how, and even if UFC 249 takes place at all still remains to be seen. White has been adamant that the event is going ahead. And while he sounded resigned to cancelling his fight against Ferguson, Nurmagomedov has more recently said he would find a way to get to the fight if the UFC can tell him where it is. Just what that will all mean come April 18th remains to be seen.