Khabib Will Fight Justin Gaethje This Year, Manager Ali Abdelaziz Says

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJuly 18, 2020

FILE - In this Oct. 5, 2018, file photo, Khabib Nurmagomedov poses during a ceremonial weigh-in for the UFC 229 mixed martial arts fight in Las Vegas. Nevada fight regulators postponed until next month hearings on suspensions against UFC fighters Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov for a brawl after their October match in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)
John Locher/Associated Press

Ali Abdelaziz, the manager for UFC stars Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, said his clients will fight each other before the end of 2020.

Abdelaziz told TMZ Sports in an interview released Saturday that Nurmagomedov, the reigning UFC lightweight champion, isn't planning to retire despite speculation since his father Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who also served as his trainer, died in early July from coronavirus complications.

"We have a blockbuster main event. [Khabib] versus Justin Gaethje. Two of the best lightweights in the world today in the recent era," Abdelaziz said.

Gaethje was among the members of the MMA community to offer his condolences to the Nurmagomedov family after Abdulmanap's death:

Abdelaziz told TMZ that Khabib is "heartbroken" but remains committed to the legacy his father wanted him to accomplish.

"Everybody understands how close Khabib and his father were," he said. "We lost something very important, and the UFC's been so awesome, especially Dana [White]. He's been communicating with Khabib; the whole team has been amazing."

Nurmagomedov has fought once since his high-profile triumph over Conor McGregor in October 2018—a submission win over Dustin Poirier to retain the lightweight belt last September.

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The 31-year-old Russian standout was scheduled to face Tony Ferguson in April, but the bout was scrapped because of travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gaethje instead took on Ferguson when the UFC restarted cards in May and was dominant en route to a fifth-round knockout to secure the interim lightweight title.

"We see what Justin Gaethje did to his last opponent," Abdelaziz told TMZ. "He dismantled Tony Ferguson. He made him look like an absolute amateur."

No further details about a potential fight date or location were provided. The UFC has started running cards at "Fight Island" in Abu Dhabi, which could provide an alternative option if travel to the United States remains a hurdle for the remainder of the year amid the pandemic.

A title clash between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje would have Fight of the Year potential.

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