Khabib Nurmagomedov will face Justin Gaethje in a UFC lightweight unification fight on October 24, Dana White has confirmed.
There had been speculation Khabib would retire from the sport after losing his father at the age of 57 in July, although the Russian’s manager refuted that claim. Gaethje stepped in to fight and beat Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 for the interim title after Khabib had to withdraw from the bout due to travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
UFC president White says the American will be Khabib’s opponent when he returns to the Octagon in three months’ time.
“It’s going to happen, tell you right here right now. That fight is going to happen,” White told CNN. “Khabib versus Gaethje, October 24.”
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White said Khabib has had a difficult time since the Russian lost his father Abdulmanap to complications following a COVID-19 infection.
“It’s been very rough on him,” he said. “His father was a hero to him, he loved his father, they had a very close relationship and it was very hard on him.”
Khabib, who has won all 28 of his professional fights, beat Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 last September in his most recent bout to defend the lightweight title.
White previously stated the fight between Khabib and Gaethje would be staged on “Fight Island” in July. White did not tell CNN where the new fight would be located.
The UFC president also spoke with ESPN earlier in the week about Khabib’s fight against Gaethje. White was asked if Khabib plans to retire soon so he can honor his father’s wishes and walk away at 30-0.
“I don’t know,” White said. “Obviously he has got this Gaethje fight that is a done deal. He is fighting Gaethje next. Then I don’t know who his last fight would be to make him 30. I don’t know. No clue, I mean listen, at the end of the day, the Conor McGregor fight — I know Conor has always wanted that fight since the last one, I mean that is the fight to make. I don’t know. Again, we will see how this all plays out. But, the Gaethje fight is absolutely, positively the next fight for him.”
White also praised Khabib in his interview with ESPN.
“The guys been great,” White said. “He’s been great to the company, he’s been great for the sport, and, I like Khabib Nurmagomedov a lot.”