Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 12 July 2020

Khabib Nurmagomedov hints at possible September UFC return

The Russian was forced to pull out of this month's title defence against Tony Ferguson over travel restrictions caused by coronavirus

Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his UFC lightweight title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi last September. Getty
Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his UFC lightweight title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi last September. Getty

Khabib Nurmagomedov has hinted at a return to the octagon in September, should the coronavirus crisis have subsided by then.

The undefeated UFC lightweight champion, 31, was supposed to defend his title this week against Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, but withdrew from the fight because of travel restrictions imposed in his native Russia to limit the spread of the pandemic.

Originally set for Brooklyn, the event was set to go ahead in California with Justin Gaethje as Nurmagomedov’s replacement. However, it was called off last week after both parent company Disney and broadcast partner ESPN asked UFC president Dana White to “stand down” in his attempts to stage the show.

No dates have been confirmed for when the UFC will again be up and running, with the last of its events coming on March 14 in Brazil. Its four shows after that, including UFC 249, have all been cancelled.

One of the biggest names in mixed martial arts (MMA), Nurmagomedov’s return is sure to remain the subject of much conjecture.

On Sunday, the Dagestan native posted a picture on social media of him training, with text in Russian saying: “But until September, it’s not too far, though it’s hard to believe that everything will end by September. But yet one serious person said: ‘that in the peaceful time you have to prepare for war’.”

Nurmagomedov, whose record in MMA stands at 28-0 (12-0 in UFC), will continue training fully this month until Ramadan, which is expected to begin on April 23.

Last week, the unbeaten lightweight told ESPN.com that he needed 45 days afterwards to recover before ramping up training once more. That would take Nurmagomedov up to the first couple of weeks in August.

Nurmagomedov last fought in September, when he defeated Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi to retain his crown. He has been set to face Ferguson, the division’s No 1-ranked challenger, five times already, with the bout never materialising.

Updated: April 13, 2020 02:28 PM

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