Khabib Nurmagomedov watches UAE Warriors in Dubai - in pictures

UFC lightweight champion is preparing for UFC 254

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UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov watched on Friday night as the UAE Warriors made its Dubai debut – with Chi Lewis-Parry defending comfortably his heavyweight title in the main event.

Nurmagomedov, in the emirate to prepare for his long-awaited comeback at UFC 254 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, was at Rotunda Caesars Palace alongside teammates and longtime coach Javier Mendez. The Russian had two members of his team competing on the card.

Nurmagomedov, unbeaten in all 28 professional mixed martial arts bouts, has not fought since defeating Dustin Poirier in September 2019, which also took place in Abu Dhabi. His return to the octagon next month, against interim champion Justin Gaethje, brings down the curtain on the UFC's second Fight Island series, which begins in the capital on Sunday with UFC 253.

Nurmagomedov has been training in Dubai this past week for his comeback to the octagon. Speaking on the sidelines of UAE Warriors 13, the Dagestan native said: "My preparations are going very good. Right now it's one month before the fight in Abu Dhabi. I feel great; my shape is very good. I'm very excited for this.

“All the time I came back to the UAE and fighting in Abu Dhabi, for me it’s like I’m fighting in my home. I feel great being here, with these people and I thank you very much you guys.”

Speculation has been rife that Nurmagomedov is considering retiring should he defeat Gaethje and then win one more fight to take his record to 30-0. On Friday night, he said: “Right now I don’t know. I have a fight in one month, and what happens after nobody knows. Right now I want to focus on my next fight because I have a really tough opponent: Justin Gaethje is the interim champ and I’m focused on him.”

Nurmagomedov said the UAE Warriors was “the best MMA organisation in the Middle East”, and seemed to enjoy another night of combat action. Having relocated from its traditional base in the capital, UAE Warriors 13 took place behind closed doors and featured 13 bouts, with the unbeaten Lewis-Parry prevailing at the top of the bill.

The towering Englishman, who holds the record for the quickest victory in UAE Warriors history, took little time to see off UFC veteran Fabio Maldonado, winning by TKO in one minute and eight seconds.

At least it lasted a full minute longer than his triumph in July last year, when Lewis-Parry took out Mahmoud Hassan in eight seconds at UAE Warriors 7. With the win on Friday, the heavyweight champion lifted his professional mixed martial arts record to nine victories and two losses.

Earlier in the night, Australia's Casey O’Neill made it five consecutive wins by dispatching Christina Stelliou by TKO in the second round, while one of Nurmagomedov’s team, Imamshafi Aleiv, took a unanimous decision win in a gripping fight against Elijas Paknys.

Knockout of the night arrived via Hashem Arkhagha, who saw off Iuri Fraga midway through the first round.