In early July, UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, died of complications stemming from COVID-19, and Khabib’s fighting future has been a major talking point in the MMA community. The Eagle and Abdulmanap were extremely close — Abdulmanap was the lightweight champ’s coach and mentor.
Reports from Russia emerged that Khabib would be retiring from MMA after losing his father, however The Eagle’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, recently refuted the retirement reports and said that the lightweight champion would fight in 2020. But in contradiction to Abdelaziz, one of Khabib’s closest training partners said that he didn’t believe The Eagle would be returning to the Octagon this year, or possibly ever again.
On Monday’s episode of DC & Helwani, former light heavyweight and heavyweight champion Daniel “DC” Cormier and ESPN’s Ariel Helwani spoke about the state of Khabib’s career. Cormier, who is a longtime teammate of Khabib’s at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, is skeptical about the lightweight champion returning to the Octagon.
Cormier said, “I don’t think he’s fighting this year, honestly. And it’s going to take a lot of strength from a very strong man, for Khabib to be back in the Octagon ever, I think.”
Helwani then asked DC if there was a chance that Khabib never fought again. The former champion said, “Man, I just know what Abdulmanap meant to him. And I know that this was their journey together. I hope he fights, I just don’t know. Like I said, he’s going to have to muster up a lot of strength for an already strong person to go out there and do it. And if he does, I just don’t know how long he’ll be around.”
Cormier continued, “Maybe he fights and honors his father with another massive and unbelievable performance. But I look back to his fight in September, and when he won and the way his dad reacted… it was almost like his whole body, his spirit, was filled with joy watching his kid do that and I’m just happy they got to share that together.”
The clip of Cormier and Helwani’s discussion can be watched below:
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Abdelaziz Recently That the Champ Would Return to the Octagon in 2020 to Fight Interim Champ Justin Gaethje
In a recent interview with TMZ, The Eagle’s manager Abdelaziz said that fans would see Khabib back in the Octagon before the end of the year. Abdelaziz said, “Khabib is not retiring. Khabib has some goals, he has some to accomplish. You will see him before the end of the year.”
Abdelaziz told the outlet that UFC president Dana White and the lightweight champion are discussing options. He said, “Now, him and Dana [White] are talking, and [I’m] talking to matchmakers, and we [are trying] to set a date.”
He continued “We have a blockbuster main event: [Khabib] versus Justin Gaethje. Two of the best lightweights in the world today in the recent era.”
Gaethje won the interim lightweight championship in May when he defeated Tony Ferguson by fifth-round TKO in the main event of UFC 249. Khabib was originally slated to defend his title against Ferguson in April, however due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the Russian was forced off the card.
Dana White Said He Wouldn’t Be Rushing Khabib Back Into the Octagon for UFC 253
Before Khabib’s father died in early July, Khabib and Gaethje’s match was linked to September 19’s UFC 253. However, White is not rushing Khabib back into the Octagon for that date. White has made it clear that he will let The Eagle take as much time as he needs to grieve the loss of his father.
During the post-fight press conference for UFC Fight Island 2 on July 18, White said: “When [Khabib is] ready, he’ll let me know.”
According to multiple reports, a massive fight is in the works for UFC 253. Middleweight champion Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya will likely be scheduled to make his second title defense on Septemeber 19 when he takes on No. 2 ranked Paulo Costa. The UFC has not officially confirmed the bout.