Reigning UFC lightweight titleholder, Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov, will not ply his trade at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California – as is the norm, for his upcoming unification clash with Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaehtje, amid fears over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Nurmagomedov, 31, will instead remain in his native Dagestan – with AKA’s head coach, Javier Mendez making the trip to Khabib for this camp, ahead of his UFC 254 matchup with Gaethje on October 24th.
The sambo specialist was replaced by fellow Dominance MMA teammate, Gaethje in the original main event of UFC 249 in April after he returned to his home country amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, ahead of a scheduled tie with Tony Ferguson – and has remained in Dagestan since then.
Speaking with ESPN reporter, Brett Okamoto, Mendez explained how he would fly out to Dagestan to help Khabib prepare for the bout, as they lay in wait for the event to be finalised either on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi or in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“We’ve got two choices (location), right?” Mendez told Okamoto. “Las Vegas or ‘Fight Island’. I’m thinking ‘Fight Island’ but they haven’t said it yet. What I do know is that [COVID-19] is too high in California, and Khabib (Nurmagomedov) is not comfortable coming here to train. So, I’m gonna go to Dagestan to train him and we’ll go from there. Where the fight is gonna be, one-hundred per cent, I don’t know but I know this, I’m going to him. That I do know. I’m going to train in Dagestan or wherever he chooses to go, but we’re not training in San Jose.“
October 24th. will mark Khabib’s first Octagon outing since September of 2019 – where he unified the lightweight championships, opposite Dustin Poirier – and also, the first bout following the death of his father and coach, renowned sambo trainer, Abdulmanap, who passed away due to complications from the novel coronavirus in July.
A potential location for Khabib vs. Gaethje has tentatively been suggested as ‘Fight Island’ – with the promotion likely return to Abu Dhabi for a second time this year for a slew of events.
UFC president, Dana White has also hinted at the possibility of the promotion returning to the United Arab Emirates a month prior for a September 19th. UFC 253 event, which is headlined by a middleweight title fight between champion, Israel Adesanya, and number-one contender, Paulo Costa.