While the UFC has still been able to put on events week after week despite the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still fighters being affected by restrictions in place worldwide because of it. One fighter who is having to adjust to the new times is UFC reigning lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
In an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Nurmagomedov’s head coach, Javier Mendez, who is the head coach of AKA gym in San Jose, California, revealed that the champion won’t be traveling to the United States to prepare for his next fight. Nurmagomedov is scheduled to face interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October, and would usually travel to the U.S. to finish his camp, but this year he will not due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Mendez, Nurmagomedov’s camp will take place likely in either Dagestan or wherever the fight is scheduled to take place, the UFC has yet to announce a location for UFC 254. Mendez told ESPN that due to the high amount of COVID-19 cases in California, Nurmagomedov is not comfortable training there.
“We’ve got two choices [for the fight], right? 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 is not comfortable coming here to train.” (H/T ESPN)
After the passing of his father Abdulmanap in July, Mendez said he finally spoke to Khabib Nurmagomedov about two weeks ago, and while he’s still mourning the loss of his father and coach, he’s ready to honor him and fulfill his legacy.
“I did speak to him for the first time two weeks ago, and he’s still going through missing his father,”
“Rightfully so. The way they were connected, his father was pretty much his everything. Having his father’s blessing gave him that power to go out and do what he needed to do. Everything his father wanted him to do, Khabib would go out and accomplish it. Now, he doesn’t have that. So, he’s gotta focus on the legacy his father wanted for him.”
It’s been rumored that Nurmagomedov will have two more fights in his career as he looks to improve to 30-0, and then retire. With the upcoming bout against Gaethje being 29th of his professional career, Nurmagomedov’s team has called for his 30th (and likely) final fight to come against former welterweight and middleweight champion, Georges St-Pierre.