Justin Gaethje punched his ticket to a fight with lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov when he defeated Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on Saturday night. Now it looks like that fight may happen much sooner than many had anticipated.
White UFC President Dana White stated in the lead-up to Ferguson vs. Gaethje that the winner would get Khabib next, that was with the caveat that no one expected Khabib to fight again until September or October.
Khabib, however, recently posted a comment on an ESPN MMA video post on Instagram declaring that he would be ready to fight in July. “I can fight anytime, Ramadan finish 23 May. July I’m gonna be ready. Stop talking about me, this is corona-time, when Khabib-time come, I smash all of them.”
Typically, Khabib, a Muslim, fights in the spring just before the Ramadan observance begins. Following a month of fasting, prayer, and reflection, he then usually takes some time to get back in peak physical condition, returning to the cage in late summer or early fall. The last time Khabib fought in July was in 2012.
He had been slated to fight Ferguson in the UFC 249 main event on April 18 in Brooklyn, N.Y. When the coronavirus pandemic took hold of the world, Khabib found himself back in Russia on lockdown. After a couple false starts, UFC 249 finally took place on May 9 with Ferguson losing a bloody five-round battle with Gaethje.
Now the interim lightweight titleholder, Gaethje assured himself of the one fight that he wants above all others.
Dana White targets Khabib vs. Gaethje for UFC Fight Island
With UFC 249 under his belt, White is ready to move full-steam ahead with his fight promotion, as the world's economies try to emerge from the ravages of the pandemic. He now thinks that Khabib vs. Gaethje is likely to happen in July, likely on the infamous UFC Fight Island, which is currently being prepped to host fights as soon as mid-to-late June.
"I don't know if it will be the first one, but (Khabib vs. Gaethje) will be on Fight Island, unless miraculously the world comes back together faster than I think it's gonna," White said in an interview on ESPN 1000 Chicago.
"Hopefully (Fight Island) will be done by mid-June, and I could put on a fight that weekend that it's done or end of June."
The UFC has filed several trademarks related to Fight Island with White believing that he's going to need it for at least the next several months, if not longer.
Conor McGregor unleashes Twitter tirade on Khabib and Gaethje
After Gaethje defeated Ferguson, Conor McGregor immediately interjected himself into the equation in a Twitter tirade. He admitted that UFC 249 made him amiable to fighting without an arena full of fans, but took aim at other fighters in the lightweight division, particularly Khabib and Gaethje.
To Gaethje, McGregor proclaimed, "I am going to f---ing butcher you. Your teeth. I’m going to put them on a f---ing necklace."
He also charged at Khabib, a longtime rival, with, "Khabib, you absolute embarrassment. Scurrying, hiding rat as usual." Adding, "It's me and Justin next as Khabib is the biggest bottle fighter in the game. Guarantee it."
McGregor, of course, is the biggest draw in the sport and frequently gets what he asks for, even when it seems impossible. Remember that Floyd Mayweather Jr. boxing match we all thought was little more than social media hyperbole at one time? But White doesn't appear ready to sidestep Gaethje, who fought to an entirely new level of perfect against Ferguson.
"Any time Conor McGregor is fighting, it's exciting, but yeah, I'm very excited for Gaethje versus Khabib," White said. "I think stylistically it's a great match-up. I'm looking forward to it."
Neither Conor McGregor nor money will distract Justin Gaethje from Khabib
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