Khabib Nurmagomedov has arrived in Dubai to continue his training camp ahead of next month’s return to the octagon in Abu Dhabi.
The undefeated lightweight champion, who turns 32 on Sunday, headlines UFC 254 on Yas Island on October 24, when he takes on interim belt-holder Justin Gaethje in a title unification clash.
The event brings to a close a second Fight Island series in the capital, which comprises a five-show run beginning on September 27 with UFC 253. However, local organisers have yet to officially announce the upcoming residency.
A regular visitor to the Emirates, Nurmagomedov touched down in Dubai this week, and joins longtime coach Javier Mendez and teammates at the Nad Al Sheba Sports Complex. They began to arrive last week.
Unbeaten in 28 professional bouts, Nurmagomedov visited the emirate last month following his appearance as guest at UAE Warriors 12 in Abu Dhabi, where he supported his cousin, Usman Nurmagomedov. During his stay, he met with Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, at the complex.
Nurmagomedov's fight against Gaethje represents the Russian's return to competition for the first time since last September. That bout also took place on Yas Island, where Nurmagomedov defeated then-interim champion Dustin Poirier by third-round submission at a sold out The Arena.
Nurmagomedov was scheduled to face Tony Ferguson in April, but the bout fell through because of travel restrictions amid the pandemic. Gaethje eventually took on Ferguson in May, winning by TKO in the fifth round.
In July, Nurmagomedov's father and coach, Abdulmanap, died from heart complications, prompting rumours of his son's retirement.
Khabib Nurmagomedov's match-up with Gaethje rounds off what promises to be another stellar Fight Island, with Israel Adesanya’s middleweight title defence against Paulo Costa one of two championship fights at UFC 253. In the other, Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz contest the vacant light heavyweight crown.
From there, Fight Nights take place on October 4, 11 and 18, before UFC 254 closes out the promotion’s second series in Abu Dhabi. That card will also feature No 1-ranked middleweight challenger Robert Whittaker against Jared Cannonier.
The inaugural Fight Island ran from July 12-26 and comprised four events, beginning with UFC 251. All shows were staged at Flash Forum.