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UFC 253: Dana White doesn’t expect father’s passing to keep Khabib from Justin Gaethje title defense

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Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) President Dana White expects Khabib Nurmagomedov to defend his 155-pound title against top lightweight contender Justin Gaethje in the UFC 253 pay-per-view (PPV) main event, scheduled for Sept. 19 in Abu Dhabi.

“The Eagle” recently lost his father to complications from coronavirus and has not been seen or heard from since. But until White hears otherwise, Nurmagomedov is still scheduled to make his Octagon return against “The Highlight” later this year.

“I don’t think it’s off the table,” White told reporters about the UFC 253 main event. “I’m just waiting to hear from him. I’m not messing with Khabib. I’m leaving him alone until he’s ready to talk and letting him mourn and do what he has to do. I reached out to him the day of ... I haven’t heard back from him since.”

Khabib’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, was placed in a medically-induced coma after being admitted to the hospital last May in Moscow, Russia, where he underwent emergency bypass surgery. At the time, doctors were able to stabilize his condition but the longtime combat sports trainer eventually succumbed to his illness.

“The Eagle” (28-0) has not competed since defeating Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 back in late 2019. As for the streaking Gaethje (22-2), he’s coming off a technical knockout win over lightweight “Boogeyman” Tony Ferguson in the UFC 249 headliner just a few months back.