In an interview Tuesday morning with CNN, UFC President Dana White announced that Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov will defend his lightweight title vs. interim champ Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje in the UFC 255 main event on Oct. 24.
The venue is undetermined with the most likely spots being ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi or at the UFC’s Las Vegas APEX Facility.
As of Tuesday afternoon, most books had Nurmagomedov favored in the -240/-250 neighborhood. The cheapest price was -220 at SportsInt., while the most expensive offering for the 31-year-old Dagestan native was -270 at Bookmaker.
The best underdog odds on Gaethje were +207 at BookMaker. He was +195 at 5Dimes and +190 at BetOnline.
Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC) has successfully defended his 155-pound strap twice, defeating Conor McGregor by fourth-round submission at UFC 229. He returned to top Dustin Poirier via third-round submission last September at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi.
Nurmagomedov has been mourning the death of his father and life-long coach, Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who passed away due to complications from COVID-19 on July 3.
Gaethje (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has won four consecutive fights by knockout. His first three victims — James Vick, Edson Barboza and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone — were finished in Round 1. Then at UFC 249 in Jacksonville on May 9, Gaethje replaced Nurmagomedov (who was stuck in Dagestan and unable to travel due to the global pandemic) against Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson.
Gaethje produced a spectacular performance and ended Ferguson’s 12-fight winning streak with a fifth-round KO.
In a separate interview Monday, ESPN’s Brett Okamoto asked White about other potential fights down the line for Nurmagomedov, including a potential matchup with retired former two-division champ, Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre. (Nurmagomedov’s father had said in the past that he wanted Khabib to retire with a 30-0 record.)
White was open to it. He told Okamoto, “He’s been great to the company, he’s been great for the sport… I would do anything Khabib wanted to do.”
I would think Nurmagomedov has (a lot) more than two fights left in him, but only time will tell on that.
Whatever the case, BetOnline opened odds this morning for a potential Nurmagomedov-St. Pierre scrap. The offshore book made Nurmagomedov a -200 favorite, with GSP as a +170 underdog.
We should note that GSP has never gone down to 155 pounds to fight in that weight class.