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UFC 254: Khabib won’t train in the U.S. for Justin Gaethje title fight due to high number of COVID-19 cases

Khabib Nurmagomedov will make his long-awaited return to action when he faces Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on October 24, 2020 in a highly-anticipated Lightweight title unification match in a city and venue that have yet to be finalized.

The two likely locations are either Las Vegas, Nevada or Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. While “The Eagle” may have to fly into the United States to face “The Highlight,” he won’t be training here according to his head coach, Javier Mendez, who leads American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) in San Jose, Calif.

“We’ve got two choices [for the fight], right? Las Vegas or Fight Island [in Yas Island, Abu Dhabi,’” Mendez told ESPN. “I’m thinking Fight Island, but they haven’t said it yet. What I do know is that [COVID-19] is too high in California, and Khabib is not comfortable coming here to train.”

Khabib’s decision is largely based on the fact that he just lost his father and trainer, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, to COVID-19. Prior to that, Khabib revealed he had lost several friends and family members to the dangerous virus.

And while Nurmagomedov is back in the gym and gearing up for his comeback, he is still obviously mourning the loss of his father.

“I did speak to him for the first time two weeks ago, and he’s still going through missing his father. Rightfully so. The way they were connected, his father was pretty much his everything. Having his father’s blessing gave him that power to go out and do what he needed to do. Everything his father wanted him to do, Khabib would go out and accomplish it. Now, he doesn’t have that. So, he’s gotta focus on the legacy his father wanted for him.”

Talks of a much-desired superfight between Nurmagomedov and St-Pierre have recently resurfaced, with UFC president Dana White also expressing interest. According to Mendes, it’s a fight Khabib’s late father also wanted before the dominant champion retires from the fight game.

“It was discussed on numerous occasions — 30-0,” Mendez said. “And GSP was definitely the legacy fight. If they can complete that, I could see 30-0 and he’s done. I can definitely see that. That conversation was brought up numerous times while I was with them.”

At 28-0, 12-0 UFC, that means Nurmagomedov would only have two fights remaining in his combat career.

Remember that will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 254: “Khabib vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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