The date and place of the next fight with the participation of Khabib Nurmagomedov remain one of the main intrigues in the world of MMA. Over the past few weeks, there have been many rumors in the press about where and when exactly the Russian champion will try to defend the UFC lightweight title for the third time, but there has been no official confirmation from the promotion. Initially, it was reported that the athlete will perform at the tournament in September, but later this information was denied in his team.
Authoritative MMA portal Sherdog wrote that the fight for the lightweight belt is scheduled for UFC 253, which is due on September 19. At the same time, Las Vegas was indicated as the venue, which immediately aroused certain suspicions. It was there that the fight between Nurmagomedov and McGregor took place, which ended in a mass brawl. As a result, Khabib and Conor, as well as several representatives of the Russian team, were temporarily suspended from performances, and Nurmagomedov swore not to fight in Vegas anymore.
In light of this, the possibility of a Russian appearing on a show in Nevada was highly questionable. Especially in light of the recent loss of his father, which could not but affect the preparatory process and the associated psychological aspects. Taking into account the fact that athletes spend about three months in the camp on average before the fight, now Khabib had to go half the way.
As a result, Sherdog's news was denied both in the UFC and Nurmagomedov's team. The main event of the 253rd tournament was the battle for the middleweight title between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa, and the manager of the Russian athlete Rizvan Magomedov assured that his client should not be expected at an event in Las Vegas.
"Khabib will not perform at this tournament," TASS quoted Magomedov as saying.
Probably, Sherdog's assumption was based on the fact that last year Nurmagomedov fought in September. At UFC 242, he cracked down on Dustin Poirier and defended his championship for the second time. However, the Russian's track record shows that he does not beat often this month. The last time this happened was in 2013, when he defeated Pat Healy by unanimous decision. Subsequently, he went into the octagon three times in the second half of the year, and each time the fights fell on the period from October to December. Suffice it to recall his duels with Michael Johnson, Edson Barbosa and Conor McGregor.
In light of this, Dana White's statement sounded more believable. In an interview with The National, he said that all the upcoming major fights will take place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, and also shared his opinion that the duel with Nurmagomedov will take place immediately after the battle between Adesanya and Costa. Since the UFC usually organizes one numbered show a month, it could be assumed that Khabib and Gaji would meet at the 254th tournament in October.
“Khabib will be next. Now we are discussing the fight between Israel Adesanya and Paulo Costa. It will take place. A duel between Weili Zhang and Rose Namayunas is also possible. Any serious, big fight between the champion and the number one contender for the title is likely to take place on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, "White said.
But if you believe the Brazilian media, in October, two numbered tournaments can take place at once - on the 10th and 24th. In the event that they both take place in Abu Dhabi, it may be more profitable for the promotion to determine the fight with Nurmagomedov at a later date. Firstly, the championship does not miss the opportunity to time major fights for the anniversary shows, and secondly, Khabib himself will receive a little more time to prepare. In the current environment, every extra day can be good for him.
However, Nurmagomedov's team did not confirm this information. So, Rizvan Magomedov said that contrary to rumors, UFC 253 will not be held in the UAE, but in the United States.
“The tournament will indeed take place in Las Vegas,” Magomedov assured.
It is also widely believed that the return of Nurmagomedov may not take place at all in 2020. Of course, this is due to the loss of his father, who was not only one of the closest people for him, but also a coach and mentor. Thus, the Russian must not only survive the pain of loss, but also make the necessary changes in the training process. If earlier he began training in his native Dagestan with Abdulmanap, now, most likely, he will immediately go to the American Kickboxing Academy, where his personal trainer Javier Mendes works.
His teammate Daniel Cormier believes that we should not expect Nurmagomedov to return to the cage in 2020. He expressed the opinion that the Russian will need more time to recover after the death of his father.
“Honestly, I don't think he will fight this year. Even a person as strong as Khabib needs great strength to ever return to the octagon. I just know what Abdulmanap meant to him. And I understand that this was their common path ... He had a special relationship with his father. His father was everything to him, and now he is gone. So it will be some time before we see Habib again, ”Cormier told ESPN.
At the same time, the ex-UFC champion in the light and heavy weight categories admitted that Nurmagomedov might end his career altogether.
“I hope he will fight, but I don’t know… I cannot say how long he will play. Perhaps he will fight and honor his father's memory with another powerful and incredible performance. But I remember his fight in September ... You saw the tape, which shows his father's reaction to his victory over Dustin Poirier. He was filled with joy as he watched the achievement of his son. I'm glad that they shared this moment together, ”concluded Cormier.
Dana White also spoke about the possible departure from the big sport of Nurmagomedov Jr. The President of the UFC praised the merits of the Russian in mixed martial arts, but admitted that he would not consider it a tragedy if this happened.
“He is undefeated. He achieved everything. He has a ton of money. But this is an important factor in this business. See what Conor McGregor has achieved. What a great superstar he became. Guys like that end their careers, it happens, but I never worry about it. This is part of the job. There will never be another Khabib, like another Conor. But other stars will appear, and that's the fun part of this journey. What will happen next? Who is next? Where do we go next? " White declared.