At UFC 249, Justin Gaethje cemented his shot at the undisputed lightweight champion when he stopped Tony Ferguson to claim an interim title. Quickly the talk began to center around when champion Gaethje would get his chance to unify the belts with Khabib Nurmagomedov, and September was the targeted date for the UFC. But once again, the coronavirus waylaid the plans of the UFC.
Earlier this month, Khabib’s father and coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, passed away due to complications from COVID-19. It was a stunning loss for the MMA community and one that sparked rumors that Khabib may retire from the sport in response to the tragedy. But speaking with TMZ Sports, Khabib’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, assured everyone that “The Eagle” will fly again.
“Khabib is not retiring,” Abdelaziz said. “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.”
White actually addressed this topic over the weekend at UFC on Fight Island 2, saying that the UFC was giving Khabib as much time as he needed in light of the tragedy. And given that stance, the UFC has already seemingly moved on from the targeted September date, having replaced the rumored lightweight title fight with a middleweight one between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa. It’s unlikely the UFC would put two of their biggest stars on one event, meaning Khabib’s next title defense will be pushed back to later in the year. The indeterminate timeline for Khabib could, in theory, open up the possibility for another fight for Gaethje in the interim, perhaps against Conor McGregor, however, Abdelaziz, who also manages the interim champion, says this is not going to happen.
“Listen, we dictate this,” Abdelaziz said. “Conor right now he can be a backup fighter, he can go make weight, and he can maybe make some money, but at the end of the day, that’s the two champions. He’s not even number three. He’s number four or five. Conor can go fight Nate (Diaz) or (Jorge) Masvidal. We’re not interested in fighting him. He needs to get some wins and he needs to fight some good opponents.”
All of this means that, for the time being, the UFC lightweight division is on hold, which pales in comparison to the champion’s current personal struggles. But while circumstances like this could have derailed the undefeated champion’s career, Abdelaziz insists that when Khabib comes back, he will only further cement himself as one of the greatest ever.
“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.”
Results. A new flyweight champion was crowned at UFC Fight Island 2.
Finally. Israel Adesanya vs. Paulo Costa middleweight title fight set for UFC 253.
UFC on Fight Island Post Fight Show.
MMA fighter vs. Survivorman.
Usman-Masvidal final chapter.
The wrong side of Fight Island.
Meatball Molly at Fight Island.
6th Round. Immediate post-fight analysis of UFC on Fight Island 2.
Severe MMA. Discussing Figueiredo’s title win, Joe Duffy’s retirement, and the rest of Fight Island.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Hell of a photo.
Get yourselves a Megan Olivi. pic.twitter.com/QpcIgg22OS— Zeke Fight Island (@zamnzeke) July 19, 2020
Truly embarrassed guys. I’m sorry. My team, my family @UFC @danawhite @Mickmaynard2 You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so u can know who u are, what u can rise from, how u can still come out of it.— #OnAmission4Gold (@KelvinGastelum) July 19, 2020
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Thank you all so much for all your messages of support all week. I have been blessed on this journey in MMA and am truly grateful for every experience. I felt great all through camp and even warming up, I believed I was back to my former self then when I went in there it just falls to pieces. I think it’s time to realize that I haven’t got what it takes any more. Congrats to Joel Alvarez and thank you to the UFC for all the opportunities. I’m sorry I didn’t achieve what I set out to achieve for my fans, family, friends and myself but it just wasn’t meant to be. I am officially retiring from MMA competition
A happy man.
You aren’t champ. Deal with it.
Making the case.
Because @HenryCejudo made you quit..— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) July 20, 2020
Then @danawhite said you LOST to @josealdojunior bc you ran too much.
Meaning you are currently 0-2 after your title shot, brotha.
I beat 3 Top 5 guys. Don’t worry, you will be my first title defense if you can beat @Cody_Nolove.#FunksTime https://t.co/bMYvS2NVss
The champ digging in.
This would be a good idea.
Reebok never seemed to fit, Venum seems like a step down but we will see. I would like to see fighters have maybe 1 or 2 sponsorship opportunities on shorts.— Funky (@Benaskren) July 20, 2020
Just what this situation needed.
Khamzat Chimaev (7-0) vs. Rhys McKee (10-2-1); UFC Fight Night, July 25.
Ray Borg (13-5) vs. Nathan Maness (11-1); UFC Fight Night, Aug. 1.
Tagir Ulanbejov (12-1) vs. Bruno Silva (10-5-2); UFC Fight Night, Sep. 12.
Israel Adesanya (19-0) vs. Paulo Costa (13-0); UFC 253, Sep. 19.
And so begins another week in Fight Island. The last week, at least for now. So far we’ve had three pretty good events so here’s to hoping the fourth and final one closes out the show with aplomb.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
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