The UFC rounds off its second Fight Island series in Abu Dhabi on October 24 with arguably the most anticipated match-up of the year, when Khabib Nurmagomedov returns, finally, to the octagon. Here’s the details.
What is it?
UFC 254, the next pay-per-view instalment in the world's lead mixed martial arts promotion. The event is the final of five on "Return to Fight Island", the UFC's second residency in the capital, which follows on from July's hugely successful inaugural run.
For the first time in more than five years, the UFC put together a main card featuring six bouts, headlined by undefeated champion Nurmagomedov's lightweight unification clash with Justin Gaethje.
The Fight Island concept was created in response to the coronavirus crisis, allowing the UFC’s international athletes to compete during the pandemic. The promotion has a strong relationship with Abu Dhabi, underlined by a five-year agreement signed last year between the two parties.
When is it?
October 24. The early prelims kick off at 6:15pm UAE time, the prelims at 8pm, and main card at 10pm.
Where is it?
Fight Island takes place inside a designated “safe zone” on Yas Island. The zone is open only to fighters, coaches, UFC staff and other personnel deemed necessary to the operation.
UFC 254 will be staged at Flash Forum, the temporary venue used throughout both series thus far.
Local organisers had considered permitting a limited amount of fans into the event, however, in accordance with public health guidelines, no spectators will attend.
Khabib on 'warrior' Gaethje
Who is fighting?
Nurmagomedov tops the bill in his title bout with interim title-holder Gaethje. The Dagestan native, whose professional record reads 28-0, has not fought since September last year, when he defeated Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi.
Gaethje, meanwhile, is considered by many to pose the greatest challenge to Nurmagomedov's unblemished record. The American, known as "The Highlight", set up the meeting by dominating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in May, prevailing by TKO in the fifth round.
Also on the main card, former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier go head-to-head, in a battle that could give the victor a title shot at the division's current belt-holder, Israel Adesanya. Whittaker and Cannonier are ranked the middleweight's No 1 and No 3 contenders, respectively. Whittaker competed at the inaugural Fight Island, where he defeated Darren Till on points.
Other notable names in action include heavyweight Alexander Volkov, who takes on Walt Harris. Umar Nurmagomedov - cousin to Khabib - and teammate Islam Makhachev were scheduled to fight, but Umar Nurmagomedov had to withdraw through illness while Makhachev’s opponent, Rafael Dos Anjos, pulled out having tested positive for Covid-19.
Gaethje prepared for 'biggest fight of my life' at UFC 254
Latest Card *subject to change
Khabib Nurmagomedov v Justin Gaethje
Robert Whittaker v Jared Cannonier
Alexander Volkov v Walt Harris
Jacob Malkoun v Phillip Hawes
Lauren Murphy v Liliva Shakirova
Magomed Ankalaev v Ion Cutelaba
Stefan Struve v Tai Tuivasa
Alex Oliveira v Shavkat Rahkmonov
Da-un Ung v Sam Alvey
Sergey Morozov v TBA
Liana Jojua v Miranda Maverick
Nathaniel Wood v Casey Kenney
Joel Alvarez v Alexander Yakovlev
How to watch in UAE
Fight fans can watch all the action through the UFC Arabia app, while AD Sports TV will provide prelims coverage.