UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t thrilled that there won’t be any fans in the building for his upcoming fight.
Nurmagomedov, the undisputed UFC lightweight champion, is set to defend his title against the division’s interim champion, Justin Gaethje, in the main event of UFC 254 this Saturday on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi.
Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there will be no fans in the building for this fight—which will represent a big change for Nurmagomedov, who has competed in huge fights in packed arenas all over the world.
Speaking to the media ahead of the fight, the lightweight champion conceded that he doesn’t love the energy created by the lack of fans—particularly when compared to his 2019 fight with Dustin Poirier, which also went down in Abu Dhabi, but in front of a packed arena.
“When I fight here at 242, one year ago, it was crazy crowd, crazy fans around the world come here, a lot of people from my family, like my father was with me,” Nurmagomedov told UFC Arabia (via MMA Fighting). “It was great time last time in Abu Dhabi when I fight and right now it’s different without fans. Honestly, this energy I don’t like. I really want to fight when the fans come back, but what can we do?”
“When fans are there, this is like different level energy,” Nurmagomedov added. “With the fans and without fans is completely two different fights. Some fighters, when they don’t have fans, they fight good. When they have fans they fight little bit bad because they’re nervous. If you talk about myself, I love fans. When fans are there, they give me good energy. Even if they support me or not, I have very good energy when fans are there.
“Now I’m gonna fight without fans, we’ll see. We’ll see, but when cage close, I think nothing gonna change. I’m just gonna go and hunt and try to find my opponent.”
While Khabib Nurmagomedov has yet to fight without fans in the building, his foe Justin Gaethje has, having swiped the interim title with a win over Tony Ferguson in an empty venue in May.