UFC President Dana White confirmed the promotion is targeting a September fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje.
"We were gonna send out bout agreements yesterday," White said, via Farah Hannoun and John Morgan of MMA Junkie. "There were a couple of weird things that happened yesterday, so we didn't end up getting it done apparently, but we're talking about doing Gaethje vs. Khabib in September.
"Because I talked to Khabib yesterday, and he said September. I'm ready to go in September."
Word of a potential fight in September comes amid comments from Ali Abdelaziz, the manager for UFC stars Gaethje and Nurmagomedov, who said Conor McGregor won't interrupt the expected lightweight title clash between the fighters he represents.
Nurmagomedov was scheduled to defend his lightweight championship against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 but was forced to withdraw because of travel restrictions associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Gaethje stepped in and secured the interim title Saturday night.
Although McGregor has attempted to force himself into the championship conversation in recent days, Abdelaziz told TMZ Sports in an interview released Thursday that's not going to happen.
"Khabib will never—never—pass Justin Gaethje for Conor. Even if he made more money," he said. "Justin Gaethje has so much integrity, he will never tell the UFC, 'Oh, I'm gonna fight Conor; forget about Khabib.' [Justin] wants to be a champion."
McGregor has suggested he's primed for a title opportunity in July:
Abdelaziz downplayed that line of thinking, particularly if Nurmagomedov beats Gaethje.
"If [Conor] thinks he's gonna sit out and fight the winner [of Gaethje vs. Khabib] ... no," he told TMZ. "Especially if Khabib wins. Khabib said no. [Conor] needs more wins. ... The UFC is not boxing. The best will fight the best, and at this point [Justin and Khabib are] the two best guys."
McGregor defeated Donald Cerrone by TKO in January, but he's entered the Octagon just twice since December 2016. The other fight was a loss to Nurmagomedov in October 2018.
It's unclear whether the UFC is willing to throw the former featherweight and lightweight champion right back into the title picture despite the limited appearances in recent years, but he's doing everything in his power to make it happen.