There’s still a lot of questions regarding UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and when we’ll see him compete again. His home republic of Dagestan is currently being ravaged by Coronavirus, and the respiratory disease recently claimed Khabib’s father and head coach Abdulmanap at the start of July. Understandably, his next title defense against interim champ Justin Gaethje is now in limbo. Originally scheduled for UFC 253 on September 19th, it’s now looking like Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa will be that show’s main event.
Where Khabib vs. Justin will go is unclear. And UFC president Dana White made it clear during the Fight Island 2 post-event press conference that he wasn’t going to pressure Nurmagomedov, and wasn’t too impressed with the press pushing the issue too.
“You just said ‘Are you gonna leave him alone ... when’s he fighting?’ White remarked. “You’re asking me when he’s fighting. He’s gonna fight when he calls me.”
And to be clear, there’s no consideration regarding Khabib keeping the title while everything shakes out.
“Khabib’s dad just died. His dad just died. When he’s ready, he’ll let me know.”
According to Khabib’s manager and close friend Ali Abdelaziz, the fight will still take place before the end of the year.
“Khabib has some goals to accomplish,” Ali told TMZ Sports. “You will see him before the end of the year. Now him and Dana are talking and I’m talking to the matchmakers and we’re trying to set up a date. I’m sure Dana will let the fans know when Khabib will fight.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be an Abdelaziz interview without a few potshots at Conor McGregor, who ‘retired’ after the UFC refused to grant him a title eliminator fight against Gaethje. Interestingly enough, Ali claims Khabib supports the idea of a McGregor vs. Gaethje fight while he takes time to process his father’s death.
“Khabib told me to go tell Justin to fight Conor,” Abdelaziz said. “Justin said no. Listen, we dictate this. Conor right now he can be a backup fighter. He can go make weight and maybe make some money, but at the end of the day, that’s the two champions. He’s not even No. 3, he’s No. 4 or No. 5. Conor can go fight Nate or Masvidal. We’re not interested in fighting him. He needs to get some wins and he needs to fight some good opponents. I said, the only way he can fight Khabib is if he fights Islam Makhachev, then he can fight Khabib.”
We doubt McGregor is interested in the #11 ranked Makhachev, who is on a six fight win streak in the UFC and 18-1 overall. At the moment, “The Notorious” seems content to enjoy the beach and keep his head low until something shakes out in the UFC lightweight or welterweight division that makes a return worthwhile. The UFC also seems to be strangely okay with this, on account of Conor costing so much money that a McGregor fight without a gate isn’t something they’re particularly excited to put on.
Whatever goes on with McGregor, the key takeaway here is that while September may not be Khabib Time as originally planned, there may be some smesh going down before the end of 2020. Given the circumstances, we’re very okay with that.