Khabib Nurmagomedov has suggested he is aiming for an octagon return in September, when he could finally face Tony Ferguson after their fight at UFC 249 fell through due to the coronavirus pandemic.
UFC lightweight champ Khabib was forced out of his planned showdown with Ferguson on April 18 after finding himself stranded in lockdown in Russia.
The UFC went on to book Justin Gaethje as a stand-in to face Ferguson, planning to hold the event on tribal lands in California to circumvent the issues caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.
But UFC boss Dana White was last week forced to pull the plug on the event entirely – as well as postpone further UFC dates planned for a ‘fight island’ he had acquired the services of – after pressure was placed on him from broadcasting bosses at ESPN and parent company Disney.
UFC 249 CANCELED, all events under promotion postponed INDEFINITELY due to Covid-19 – Dana White
What that means for the originally-planned Khabib versus Ferguson fight is as yet unclear, although the Russian has hinted he wants a return to action in September, assuming the coronavirus chaos has blown over by then.
“September isn’t that far away,” Khabib wrote in Russian in a post to his 19.6 million Instagram followers on Sunday.
“Even though it’s hard to believe everything will be over by September, one serious person once said: even in times of peace you need to prepare for war.”
As a devout Muslim, Khabib does not fight during Ramadan, which this year falls on April 23-May 23, and would typically need several months to get back to top fighting shape afterwards.
That would seem to tally with the presumed September target outlined in his message.
READ MORE: ‘Don’t forget to call Putin’: Khabib’s manager takes aim at UFC champion’s detractors after UFC 249 postponement
Much will depend, of course, on how things will pan out with the Covid-19 pandemic and the social curbs imposed as a result of it, as well as what UFC boss Dana White’s plans are now that both the Khabib versus Ferguson and Gaethje versus Ferguson bouts have fallen through.
But many UFC fans will cling to the hope that the Khabib versus Ferguson showdown can still happen as the main order of business for the 155lbs division, pitting as it does the Russian undefeated champion against a man on a 12-fight winning streak.
The cancellation of the bout at UFC 249 meant Khabib versus Ferguson has fallen through an incredible five times, for reasons varying from freak injuries to weight-cut issues and now a global pandemic.