Fresh off signing a rich multi-fight contract extension that his manager said is one of the biggest guaranteed deals the UFC has ever given, lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will make his return to the Octagon on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi when he fights interim champion Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 242.
UFC president Dana White confirmed the bout to Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. The news first broke on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
Nurmagomedov’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, joked that White had to scratch around to find enough money to pay the champion.
“We just got a new deal done and we’re extremely happy,” Abdelaziz told Yahoo Sports. “The talks were very professional and smooth and it’s one of the biggest deals in terms of guaranteed money I believe the UFC has ever paid anyone.
“Dana had to go to the pawn shop to sell some things to get the money because I don’t think they had the money in the bank to cover all of this. But Khabib is very happy. We’re going to go through these fights fast.”
Poirier won the interim lightweight belt when he scored a split decision victory over featherweight champion Max Holloway at UFC 236 in Atlanta on April 13.
“Khabib didn’t care where he fought, but it was important to the people in Abu Dhabi that he be on that card so we made it happen,” said White, who said the fighters will compete in a temporary stadium constructed for the event.
Nurmagomedov’s father and coach, Abdulmanap, will be able to corner his son in Abu Dhabi, marking the first time he will work his corner in the UFC.
Abdelaziz said Nurmagomedov is excited to face Poirier, but said McGregor was never an option for this bout.
“McGregor has to beat at least two top contenders,” Abdelaziz said. “He hasn’t begged enough, anyway. Khabib said he wants to fight real fighters and real contenders. Poirier is a real fighter and a legitimate tough guy. We’re not thinking about Conor at all.
“The only guy who would jump the line is [ex-welterweight and middleweight champion] Georges St-Pierre. If Georges and his team can find a middle ground with the UFC, he’ll jump everyone and be next. But Conor has to beat someone of significance first.”
White said he thinks the quickly improving Poirier will make for an interesting opponent for the undefeated Nurmagomedov.
“He’s wanted this opportunity for a long time,” White said of Poirier. “He feels he’s ready for this. He’s a guy who got here the hard way. He has fought so many tough guys and he’s gotten better and better every time. That was a huge win over [Holloway]. This is probably the perfect timing for him to take this fight.”