Conor McGregor accuses Khabib of 'chickening out first,' congratulates Tony Ferguson after breakdown of UFC 249 main event
Conor McGregor has accused Khabib Nurmagomedov of cowardice after a fight between Khabib and Tony Ferguson was canceled for the fifth time, and sparked speculation that he would be ready to step in and win at UFC 249.
Nurmagomedov pulled out of his headline fight with Ferguson at UFC 249, which has no venue but is still scheduled to go ahead against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, in a video message from his home in Dagestan on Wednesday night.
McGregor, who had been viewed as an outsider to take the champion's place in the increasingly unlikely event of the card going ahead, has watched on as rivals including Dustin Poirier and Jorge Masvidal made their willingness to step in public.
Addressing the event on April 18 for the first time, the former featherweight and lightweight champion declared: "I am in shape to fight right now.
I am in shape to fight right now! At the beginning of all this, I said to myself - I’m happy I don’t have an official fight booked. If I did, I would have consumed all the incorrect data to support me taking part in the bout, and I would have followed through, competed. And won.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 2, 2020
"At the beginning of all this, I said to myself – I'm happy I don’t have an official fight booked. If I did, I would have consumed all the incorrect data to support me taking part in the bout, and I would have followed through, competed. And won."
Referring directly to Ferguson and Nurmagomedov, who had been due to meet for the Russian's lightweight title, McGregor argued: "The fact of this matter is, both Tony and Khabib were engaged in a game of chicken here towards the fight bell, with Khabib chickening out first, making it 3-2 in pullouts in Tony's favour.
"Khab scurried out of the US to home, and amid the crisis. Very high risk. Congrats Tony."
The fact of this matter is, both Tony and Khabib where engaged in a game of chicken here towards the fight bell. With Khabib chickening out first. Making it 3-2 in pullouts in Tony’s favour. Khab scurried out of the U.S to home, and amid the crisis. Very high risk.Congrats Tony.— Conor McGregor (@TheNotoriousMMA) April 2, 2020
Speculation surrounded the whereabouts of Nurmagomedov earlier in the week after almost all flights to and from the US and Russia were grounded.
Accepting that the card might proceed without him, the undefeated fighter issued a video message to confirm he had flown home in the understanding that the fight would almost certainly take place in the United Arab Emirates.
There was an inevitability to his subsequent withdrawal, announced in a heartfelt video just hours after his father, Abdulmanap, had admitted that a range of locations from Belarus to Abu Dhabi were being lined up as octagon locations.Also on rt.com 'Everyone knew he's not fighting': Dana White knew Khabib Nurmagomedov was out of UFC 249, so why persist with the event?
UFC president Dana White has been unwavering in his insistence that UFC 249 will go ahead without fans if necessary, while Ferguson has accused Nurmagomedov of "hiding in Russia" and is yet to pull out of the only major upcoming sporting event still scheduled during the coming weeks.
The fight had originally been scheduled to take place in New York, which has witnessed a higher death rate than many countries as the virus continues to cause a public health crisis worldwide.
McGregor's potential late addition as a replacement for Nurmagomedov, who beat the Irishman at UFC 229 in Las Vegas in October 2018, was the subject of several April Fool's Day stories.Also on rt.com 'Put yourself in my shoes': Khabib 'CANCELS' UFC 249 fight, will not circumvent Covid-19 quarantine measures
The 31-year-old has been outspoken on social media in urging the public to stay inside as the pandemic continues, providing tips to stay active and even offering his thoughts on Irish politics during the lockdown.
While many fans excitedly took his words as a sign that he would be open to joining the card, others acknowledged that the event remains in tatters.
One wrote: "He’s not fighting until this pandemic passes, and he’s glad he didn’t have a fight booked because he would then have trouble seeing this for the dangerous pandemic it really is."
Another told him: "It’s good you don’t have one booked. Gives us something to look forward to. Stay safe, Conor."