By the time he returns to the Octagon, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will have been on the sidelines for the better part of a year. He intends to make up for lost time when he returns.
After defeating Conor McGregor at UFC 229 in October of 2018, Nurmagomedov climbed out of the Octagon to brawl with one of McGregor's cornerman. That landed him a nine-month suspension, which he will be clear of this summer.
The plan, as it stands, is for Nurmagomedov to return on Sept. 7 to unify his belt with the interim title currently in the possession of Dustin Poirier. If all the i's are dotted and t's are crossed, Nurmagomedov and Poirier will headline the MMA juggernaut's return to Abu Dhabi at UFC 242.
UFC president Dana White, Nurmagomedov, and Poirier have all targeted that event, and Nurmagomedov's manager, Ali Abdelaziz, confirmed not only that his client wants to headline UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi, but also wants to fight two more times before Ramadan in 2020.
Nurmagomedov is a devout Muslim and observes the Ramadan holiday, which is a one-month fasting period, every year. With that in mind, he doesn't typically fight for at least a couple of months after the holiday.
Khabib Nurmagomedov's plans for the next year
"He gave me very specific instructions," Abdelaziz told ESPN recently. "He said he wants to fight Sept. 7 and again in December. And if Georges St-Pierre can figure things out with the UFC by April, that's the deal. He would like that fight in April.
"The lightweight division has a lot of contenders, and we need to keep the division going."
One name that doesn't currently appear to be on Nurmagomedov's radar is the man he just defeated, Conor McGregor. Though McGregor has mentioned wanting a rematch, Nurmagomedov and has team aren't inclined to grant him one.
"To be honest, Conor is going to have to go out there and fight somebody like Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson or Cowboy (Cerrone)," Abdelaziz said. "He's not a worthy enough opponent right now. That's the feeling from all of us, as a team."
Of course, if that's the fight fans want to see, the UFC will likely find a way to make it happen, but it's not a fight that excites Nurmagomedov.
Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to be a role model for young, Muslim kids
He's currently much more excited about headlining in the United Arab Emirates, where his religion, Islam, is also the state religion.
"Mixed martial arts in the Middle East and North Africa became so big after Khabib won his fight against Conor because Khabib was honoring these people," Abdelaziz said. "To go to Abu Dhabi and put on a show for these people, to show these young, Muslim kids there is something called the UFC, and you can become a UFC champion -- doesn't matter what race or religion you come from -- it's very special for Khabib. He is an ambassador for that region."