Ali Abdelaziz, who manages both Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, says the pair will fight by the end of the year.
Nurmagomedov, the undisputed UFC lightweight champ has been expected to defend his title against Gaethje, the interim champ, for some time. However, doubt was cast on the bout when Nurmagomedov’s father and trainer Abdulmanap died this summer.
According to Abdelaziz, however, Nurmagomedov will still defend his title against Gaethje in 2020.
“Khabib is not retiring,” Abdelaziz told TMZ Sports (via MMA Fighting) “Khabib has some goals, he has some things he wants to accomplish. You will see him before the end of the year. Now him and Dana (are) talking and me talking to the matchmakers and we’ll try to set a date. I’m sure Dana is gonna let everybody know when Khabib is gonna fight.
“We have a blockbuster main event, him versus Justin Gaethje, two of the best lightweights in the world today and the recent era. We see what Khabib does to all his opponents. We see what Justin Gaethje did his last four opponents. He dismantled Tony Ferguson. He made him look like an absolute amateur and that’s the best two guys in the world. They’re gonna fight.”
Abdelaziz continued, explaining that Nurmagomedov is “a different breed”—hence his purported willingness to fight so soon after his father’s death.
“Khabib is a different breed too,” Abdelaziz said. “Of course, he’s heartbroken. It’s his father, it’s his mentor, it’s his best friend, but at the end of the day, Khabib’s father had a legacy he wanted Khabib to accomplish. Khabib is a living legend and that’s where legend comes from, legends come from adversity, from death, from a lot of things. And that’s what Khabib does. He comes back from back surgery, from ACL surgery, from the death of his father. He’s gonna fight Justin Gaethje and they’re gonna put on a great display of martial arts, and we are the winners. The fans are the winners, the promotion are the winners. It’s gonna be a blockbuster fight card, for sure.”
While Abdelaziz claims Nurmagomedov is already plotting his next fight, UFC President Dana White has assured he won’t be rushing the lightweight champion back to the cage.
“He’s going to fight when he calls me,” White said during a Fight Island post-fight press conference. “Khabib’s dad just died. When he’s ready, he’ll let me know.”
“No, I’m not messing with Khabib. I’m leaving him alone until he’s ready to talk and I’m letting him mourn and do what he has to do. I reached out to him the day of and I haven’t heard back from him since.”
Do you think Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight in 2020?