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UFC looking to set up Khabib vs. Gaethje ‘as soon as possible’

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With Khabib Nurmagomedov saying a July return is possible, a showdown to unify the lightweight title could happen sooner than you’d think.

UFC 249 Ferguson v Gaethje Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Those hoping to see Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov finally come to fruition were probably not too happy with the way things played out at UFC 249 last night (Sat., May 9, 2020). Justin Gaethje stepped into Nurmagomedov’s spot after the Dagestani sambo fighter got stuck in Russia due to Coronavirus travel restrictions ... and he absolutely cleaned Ferguson’s clock (watch highlights), derailing “El Cucuy’s” 12-fight win streak and locking in dibs on Khabib when he returns from his annual Ramadan hiatus.

The Gaethje we saw at UFC 249 was more patient and methodical than we’ve ever seen before, something he credited to his head coach Trevor Wittman.

“I have a world class coach, I had to lose to change,” Gaethje said during his post-fight interview. “Can’t fix what’s not broken. Once I understood what was wrong — I was getting hit too much, and I was honestly having too much fun. Both times I lost, I became complacent because I was having too much fun. And at this level you absolutely cannot do that.

“I was fighting the best in the world. Khabib is the best in the world,” he continued. “I’ve been working since I was four for challenges like this. And I’m happy to represent the United States of America versus Dagestan or Russia’s best. He’s 28-0 and there’s no other challenge I want right now. I want to fight him.”

At the UFC 249 post-fight press conference, UFC President Dana White confirmed Gaethje vs. Nurmagomedov was next.

“Khabib tweeted that he’s ready to go this summer,” he said. “So we’ll get back home next week and figure out what’s next and get this fight together as soon as possible.”

As for Khabib vs. Tony ... it’s dead, isn’t it?

“Well, for now it is, yeah,” White said.

While we don’t doubt Khabib was amongst those most disappointed by the loss of Tony Ferguson as his next opponent, he seemed to confirm via tweet that he was prepared to face Gaethje next.

“In this sport, and especially in this weight there will always be hungry lions that will breathe in your back,” Khabib wrote. “If you relax, then you will end. Some leave and others come, there is nothing to be surprised. But I won’t fall before the shot. We will still fight.”

What do you think, Maniacs? Excited for Gaethje fighting Khabib, or still too salty about Ferguson vs. Khabib falling out to think about that just yet?