Khabib Nurmagomedov has been 'affected' by the coronavirus pandemic, and is training for his blockbuster fight with Tony Ferguson behind closed doors

  • Khabib Nurmagomedov has been affected by how the coronavirus pandemic has gripped major cities in multiple countries.
  • It has led to uncertainty throughout the sports industry, with big leagues and organizations shutting operations.
  • The UFC has postponed three events, but Nurmagomedov's April 18 lightweight title defense against Tony Ferguson remains on the calendar.
  • Nurmagomedov is training behind closed doors, has a reduced fight team, and is preparing for the bout to go ahead, his trainer Javier Mendez told ESPN.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Khabib Nurmagomedov has been "affected" by the coronavirus pandemic, his trainer Javier Mendez said, and the UFC lightweight champion is now preparing for his next fight behind closed doors.

Nurmagomedov's April 18 defense of his UFC lightweight championship title against Tony Ferguson is one of the most significant match-ups in all mixed martial arts, and is, as of Thursday, still set to go ahead.

It is one of very few sports events organized in the upcoming weeks because COVID-19 has caused bans on mass gatherings in multiple major cities, restricted travel, and seen major leagues like the NBA and English Premier League shut down operations.

While the UFC has postponed three events, the mid-April mega-fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson remains on the calendar. It currently has no actual venue, as plans to compete at the original location — the Barclays Center in Brooklyn — were nixed by authorities.

"It's affected him a little bit," Mendez told ESPN on Tuesday. "But he has to fight. His attitude is, 'I've got to fight. I'm here to fight and, until they tell me otherwise, I'm training to fight.'

"So until [UFC president] Dana [White] says, 'Get the foot off the pedal, we can't make it happen,' Khabib is going to stick to that mindset."

Mendez, who runs the famed American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, said the fight club now has reduced hours and is only open for two hours each day. Those two hours are dedicated exclusively to training Nurmagomedov alongside the Russian wrestler's sparring partners.

Nurmagomedov's training is behind closed doors. "Nobody else is allowed … we've gotta keep it safe for him," Mendez said.

Mendez doesn't even know if the fight will go ahead

The escalating nature of the pandemic in many countries has created great uncertainty, and Mendez said he doesn't even know if April 18 bout will proceed.

"Dana [White] will do everything in his power to make it happen, but I don't know if he will make it happen.I'm not sure if they can pull it off, because [White] can't control governments.

"I want it to happen, obviously," he said. "Nobody gets paid if nobody goes to work."

Tony Ferguson.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images

Regardless, Nurmagomedov remains as battle-ready as he can be.

"Khabib expects to fight somebody if something happens to Tony," Mendez said. "He expects to fight somebody. One top guy. Whatever. And then he'll go back after Tony. That's the way he looks at it. He's expecting to fight.

"His attitude is the fight is happening. His sparring was fantastic on Monday, trust me.

"He's training like the fight is gonna happen and I'm teaching him like the fight is gonna happen and telling him the fight is gonna happen."

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