Dana White has launched a staunch defence of Khabib Nurmagomedov after the lightweight champion pulled out of his long-awaited UFC 249 title fight against Tony Ferguson.
Khabib left his training camp in California just over two weeks before the event in Brooklyn and returned to his homeland after the Russian government issued a blanket travel ban due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the fifth time a fight between the two UFC stars has been cancelled, with many fans – and Ferguson himself – criticising Khabib.
But White has defended the Russian and says he was forced to return home, while UFC 249 will go ahead with Ferguson instead taking on Justin Gaethje.
Asked if Ferguson was accepting of the decision for the Khabib fight to be called off, White told ESPN: ‘He was. Tony, I’ve got to give it to him man, he took it well. He took it really well.
‘It’s tough, when you’re ready to get that fight – you’ve been waiting for so long – and then it falls out.
‘And I know everyone was going crazy on Khabib and saying that he [pulled out]. Khabib didn’t do anything wrong.
‘If you look at the way that the world changed, literally by the day, we got caught up man, and he ended up getting flown back to Russia.
‘He didn’t fly back to Russia, het got flown back to Russia. So it sucks, but what are you going to do?
‘We’re lucky we’re even here, we’ve still got Tony and Gaethje which is a ridiculous fight, it will be for the interim title and then we’ll all have to wait again and try to do this thing in September.’
Asked why the fight was made an interim title bout, White continued: ‘Well it’s a no-brainer. You have two of the top guys in the world. Everybody felt that if Conor [McGregor] was going to get a shot at Khabib that actually Gaethje should get it before Conor.
‘I mean, it couldn’t have worked out any better, you get Gaethje vs Tony. It’s the fight that makes sense. It’s two of the top guys in the world. Khabib is out, so the winner will face Khabib.’
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