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After a tumultuous year for UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0) that included the unfortunate loss of his father, the champ is returning in October.
UFC president Dana White confirmed to CNN the October 24th return of Nurmagomedov.
He will face interim champ Justin Gaethje (22-2), who won the interim belt against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in May when the UFC held court in Jacksonville, Florida early during the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) July 28, 2020
The champ’s father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died from complications with COVID-19 earlier this month.
“It’s been very rough on him,” White said. “His father was a hero to him. He loved his father. They had a very, very close relationship, and it was very hard on him.”
The Russian champ originally was scheduled to face Tony Ferguson in April, however, the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the event for the fifth time as Russia locked down all flights.
In the past, White flirted with the idea that Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje would take place on “Fight Island,” UFC’s fantasy island event zone on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
— MaRCeL DoRFF 🇳🇱🇮🇩 (@BigMarcel24) July 28, 2020
“The shows that we bring here, this is the only international destination for fights,” White told The National. “So all the biggest and the baddest fights coming up that we have are going to be here.
“If you look at our roster of champions, they’re from all over the world. So the biggest, baddest fights over the next God knows how long are going to be here in Abu Dhabi. That’s why I’m saying Abu Dhabi is going to be looked at as the new fight capital of the world. It used to be Las Vegas. It definitely isn’t Las Vegas right now.”
“Khabib will be the next,” White said. “We’re talking about Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa, that fight happening. Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas is a possibility. All the massive, big fights with literally the champion vs. the No. 1 contender are all looking like ‘Fight Island,’ Abu Dhabi.”
Fight Island just finished a month of fights last weekend when Robert Whitaker defeated Darren Till in the main event.