UFC president Dana White on Tuesday confirmed to CNN that lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would unify his belt with that of interim titleholder Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on Oct. 24. A location for the event has not yet been specified.
Nurmagomedov has not fought since September 2019. The bout with Gaethje will also be his first since the death of his father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who also served as his head coach and trainer.
The senior Nurmagomedov passed away recently following medical complications stemming from a COVID-19 infection.
Khabib had been slated to fight Tony Ferguson earlier this year in the UFC 249 main event. But after UFC 249 was shuffled around because of COVID-19 restrictions, Khabib remained in Russia on lockdown. It marked the fifth time that Khabib vs. Ferguson had been scheduled and then canceled.
Gaethje stepped into the retooled UFC 249 main event on May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla., where he stopped Tony Ferguson in the fifth round. With the TKO stoppage, he earned the interim lightweight championship.
Khabib vs. Gaethje had been targeted for September, but that was before Abdulmanap’s passing.
“(His father’s death) has been very rough on (Khabib),” White told CNN Sports’s Don Riddell. “His father was a hero to him, he loved his father, they had a very close relationship and it was very hard on him.”
Despite speculation that Khabib might retire following his father’s death, White went on to guarantee that would not be the case.
“(Khabib vs. Gaethje) is going to happen. Tell you right here, right now, that fight is going to happen.”
Dana White addresses the death of Khabib’s father while on UFC Fight Island
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