Dubai: Next month his star will be unveiled on the Dubai Walk of Fame alongside some illustrious names, but there is also some pretty important business that Khabib Nurmagomedov has to attend to 135 kilometres down the road in neighbouring Abu Dhabi.
The reigning UFC lightweight champion will square-off against hard-hitting interim champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 at Yas Island on October 24, in a five-round contest that is already being touted as the Fight of the Year and one which will focus on Khabib’s mental strength and resilience in the wake of the recent death of his father, Abdulmanap.
He must also demonstrate that a year’s layoff from the demanding sport of MMA has not dulled his fight IQ, his power or his hunger. Khabib, who is unbeaten in all 28 professional MMA fights, has not fought since he submitted American Dustin Poirier in the third round in September 2019 also in Abu Dhabi.
Just like he did before the Poirier fight, Khabib has opted to train with his team at Dubai’s Nad Al Sheba Sports Club, a state-of-the-art private sporting facility owned by Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
He also took time-off from his rigorous schedule to cheer on two of his up-and-coming teammates who were competing at the UAE Warriors 13 event at the Rotunda Caesars Palace in Dubai.
Speaking to journalists 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 come back here to the UAE and fighting in Abu Dhabi, for me it’s like I’m fighting in my home. I feel great with this, with these people and I thank you so much.”
Khabib, said last year: “I’ve been in Turkey, Europe, Russia, even Dagestan, US, Brazil, Canada, Mexico. I’ve been everywhere. But this place — Emirates, Abu Dhabi, Dubai — is the safest place in the world. This is an amazing place.”
Commenting on Abu Dhabi’s stature in the MMA world the Russian said: “Abu Dhabi is like Vegas, no more Vegas, right now Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the world.”
However, Khabib would not be drawn into making an statement on what the future had in store and whether the Gaethje fight would be his last.
“I don’t know after this what happens,” he said. “I don’t know. Right now I really focus on this fight I have a really tough opponent and I am focused on him.”
He was accompanied by several members of his training camp including coach Javier Mendez.