Kadyrov calling: Why Chechnya could be the perfect location for Khabib v Tony UFC 249 crisis
The original plan for an April 18 bout at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak due to New York’s ban on gatherings of 500-plus people, and other states following suit has forced the UFC to find an alternative.
The fight itself, now on its fifth installment of negotiations, has been so far immune to the worldwide blanket cancellation of sports thanks to the sheer bloodymindedness of headstrong UFC head honcho Dana White.Also on rt.com 'It's going to be a closed event': UFC president Dana White says Khabib vs. Ferguson WILL go ahead – at a mystery location
The odds on a Las Vegas date are increasingly slim and the sun is just about setting on California and Florida as viable and tenable backup options, meaning all signs lead to an alternative abroad.
White claims he knows where the fight will be but was coy about verifying the venue and teased fans currently going through the torture of not knowing if they will have their main hope of respite from the Covid-19 pandemic.
But there is one location that might fix the whole thing - Chechnya. Here we explore why the Chechen Republic might be the perfect antidote to Khabib and Tony's location crisis.Also on rt.com ‘This is only the beginning': Khabib hints worst yet to come in UFC 249 saga with cryptic message
Location, location, location
Khabib is currently holed up in Russia having this week returned to his homeland from the San Jose, California headquarters of his regular training camp of The American Kickboxing Academy, and thus thrusting a 14-day quarantine on himself strictly imposed by Russian law on all nationals returning from abroad.
Russia recently suspended all international flights from Friday in new measures by President Vladimir Putin that will also see all restaurants cafes and shops - aside from those selling food and medicine - closed in the capital Moscow, as the official total of Covid-19 cases rose to 840 in the country.
An internal flight to Chechnya or a 170km ride from Khabib’s Makhachkala hometown in Dagestan to the Chechen capital of Gronzny would be a sound alternative to get around unnecessary and uncomfortable transit.
Khabib’s most vicious fight has always been with the pre-fight weight cut which will be seriously hampered by another geographical change as the Dagestani could hardly afford boiling his body down from a reputed 190 lbs walk-around weight to make the 155 lbs lightweight limit.
Even a day would throw Khabib’s rigorous weight cut, something which the fighter himself noted recently in an Instagram post.
“We can’t understand what is happening. Where we’re fighting or if we’re fighting at all, and what about the weight cut,” Khabib posted this week after news that AKA had shut to the public.
The proximity to Khabib’s Dagestan hometown would tax the least amount of time from Khabib’s strict regime of cutting kilos from his thick frame, which was the cause of cancellation for the fourth of the previous quartet of times the fight has been scrapped and would eliminate at least one of the many current logistical problems.
Kadyrov’s coronavirus crackdown
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov is notoriously no-nonsense, and his approach to battling the coronavirus spread in Chechnya has been characteristically strict, making New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s measures look like a stroll in Central Park (in a crowd of less than 500 of course).
“If you ask me, anyone who creates this problem for himself should be killed. Not only does he get sick, [but he also infects] his family, his sisters, brothers, neighbors,” the regional Caucasian Knot news agency quoted Kadyrov as saying recently.
Although his comments may be tongue-in-cheek, such measures would mean there’d be zero risk of coronavirus measures not being adhered to in the Chechen Republic around fight night and the all-important empty stadium-‘closed event’ criteria would be a given.
Russia’s majority Muslim Republic will be a hotbed of support for Khabib, who is hailed as a hero in the North Caucasus region. The Chechen capital Grozny is situated a mere 2 hours 30 minute drive from his Makhachkala hometown where his supporters would be oddly simultaneously granted and denied a Khabib homecoming.
Nevertheless, that very fact would mean Chechnya will certainly be willing to accept what would be the biggest sporting event ever held in the country, starring one of their own local heroes.
On top of that, Kadyrov is a huge fan of a range of sports, particularly football and combat sports, having hosted Mike Tyson and Ronaldinho to sporting events in the country.
The 43-year-old is a loyal supporter of Khabib and traveled to support the Dagestani Eagle in his most recent fight against Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi, in which he defended his lightweight title in 3 rounds back in September.
Khabib will observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan from April 23, just one week after the fight’s orignal planned date, meaning the Russian will not fight for an entire month, meaning the fight might be shunted further down the currently bare sporting calendar.
That will give extra incentive for the UFC to find an alternative or face rescheduling the fight for an end-of-year date, something they will likely not be keen to forego.
Khabib and Tony’s will-they-won’t-they, seesaw back-and-forth drama has been one of the most intriguing UFC tales before either have ever even set foot in the same cage. In times of extreme uncertainty worldwide, a rescheduling to Chechnya may provide some light at the end of a very dark tunnel and fend off the almost certainty that Khabib versus Tony will, just as it has been four times before, be canceled.