Dana White has already told his current Lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, to take as much time as he needed to mourn the passing of his father before he returns to action. “The Eagle” was in line to defend his belt against Justin Gaethje at UFC 253 on Sept. 19, 2020, in Abu Dhabi.
According to his very close friend and training partner, Daniel Cormier, since Khabib was so tight with his father Abdulmanap, he is unlikely to return to the Octagon later this year.
If at all.
“I knew right away that Khabib wasn’t going to [come back in September].… It’s going to be too difficult,” Cormier said on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show (via MMA Junkie). “It’s going to be too difficult. Khabib is dealing with something that’s so difficult and so tough. And like we spoke a couple of weeks ago, him and his dad’s relationship is so much different. He was everything to him, and now he’s gone, so it’s going to be awhile before we see Khabib.
“I don’t think he’s fighting this year, honestly,” Cormier continued. “And it’s going to take a lot of strength from a very strong man for Khabib to be back in the octagon, ever. I just know what Abdulmanap meant to him, and I know that this was their journey together.
“I hope he fights, but I don’t know. I don’t know. Like I said, he’s going to have to muster up a lot of strength for an already strong person to go out there and do it. And if he does, I just don’t know how long he’ll be around. Maybe he fights and honors his father with another massive and unbelievable performance.”
Visa issues had constantly prevented Abdulmanap from cornering “The Eagle” since making his way to UFC. But when Khabib was booked to face Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi last year, Abdulmanap was right there calling the shots for his son.
“But, I look back at his fight in September (2019), and when he won, the way his dad reacted it almost … you saw the video when his dad reacts after he won against Dustin Poirier, and it was almost like his spirit was filled with joy watching his kid do that. I’m just happy they got to share that together.”
Khabib’s manger recently revealed that “The Eagle” had given Justin Gaethje the go-ahead to fight Conor McGregor instead of waiting around for his possible return to action. Gaethje, though, turned down the offer and opted to play the waiting game.
And now that it could possibly be a longer wait than expected, there is no telling what Gaethje and UFC will do as the end of 2020 draws closer.