It looks like UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will be limited to just a single bout this year.
After Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC) was forced to withdraw from his planned UFC 249 title defense against Tony Ferguson originally set for April 18, the division is set to move on. The UFC has an interim 155-pound title bout between Ferguson (25-3 MMA, 15-1 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (21-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) lined up for the re-purposed UFC 249 event on May 9 in Jacksonville, Fla.
That matchup is about as good as it gets on paper, but it’s not the highly anticipated clash between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson the MMA world has been clamoring for. All hope is not lost, though, as UFC president Dana White said the Ferguson-Gaethje winner will fight Nurmagomedov next.
“The Ferguson vs. Gaethje fight is one of the most violent fights you will see,” White told ESPN on Instagram Live. “I can guarantee that. This fight is going to be incredible. The winner will fight Khabib for the title. This is for the interim. 100 percent (the winner fights Khabib).”
On top of the multitude of issues brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, Nurmagomedov wouldn’t have been able to fight any time beyond April 18, anyway. He just began observing Ramadan, which takes “The Eagle” away from fighting for roughly the same timeframe each year.
Nurmagomedov has said previously he could be ready to fight as early as August, but White said he doesn’t anticipate getting him in the octagon that soon.
“Khabib will be back in September or October,” White said.