Tony Ferguson understands the world's current plight in dealing with COVID-19, but he believes that Khabib Nurmagomedov shouldn't use the global pandemic as an excuse to wiggle out of their UFC 249 fight, which was slated for April 18.
Amidst news that Nurmagomedov is pulling out of the UFC 249 fight due to coronavirus travel bans in Russia, Ferguson told ESPN's Ariel Helwani that the UFC should strip Khabib of his lightweight championship.
“He was in Abu Dhabi, had the chance to be able to come back (to the United States) before the borders were closed in Russia," Ferguson began explaining. “He decided to go back to Dagestan, he did not finish his camp. The guy does not want to fight, he’s scared, he’s running. He should be stripped of his title.”
He added moments later: "He obviously knew what he could do to help save this card. He didn't want to take any of those chances. Everybody is taking risks trying to do this stuff. He bailed out, man. It's pretty hard to explain, but he bailed out, man."
This marks the fifth time that Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson was booked only to be canceled, as injuries or illness were to blame for the prior failures.
Ferguson's pointed criticism toward Nurmagomedov came after the UFC lightweight champion wrote a lengthy Instagram post earlier on Wednesday explaining why he wouldn't be able to fight Ferguson at UFC 249.
"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 Khabib still has to fight, is that what you saying? Take care of yourself and put yourself in my shoes."
That being said, Ferguson wasn't buying the explanation.
"As far as Khabib goes, he has the power and he has the opportunities to be able to take a private plane, come back, finish his training camp and be able to do UFC 249 for all the people and for everybody else that's out there to give a little bit more hope to people that are staying at home and trying to get through this," Ferguson said. "He does not want to fight. I guarantee this dude is going to try to retire without fighting me."
With Nurmagomedov out, Justin Gaethje is reportedly the most likely to replace him and fight Ferguson instead, although the bout hasn't been finalized yet.
"It doesn't matter who we have," Ferguson said, referring to whoever stands across from him in the Octagon on April 18. "We're gonna try to make this thing go. 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."