UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov would like to defend his title three times over the next 11 months, according to his agent, Ali Abdelaziz.
As a devout Muslim, Nurmagomedov (27-0) is preparing to observe the one-month fasting period of Ramadan, which begins Monday. Abdelaziz said Nurmagomedov will continue to train, however, and has said he would like to fight in September, December and next April.
“He gave me very specific instructions,” Abdelaziz told ESPN. “He said he wants to fight Sept. 7 and again in December. And if [former welterweight champion] Georges St-Pierre can figure things out with the UFC by April, that’s the deal. He would like that fight in April.”
St-Pierre, 37, announced his retirement from mixed martial arts in December. During that announcement, he said he would love to fight Nurmagomedov but claimed the UFC wished to go in another direction. Nurmagomedov considers St-Pierre a legend and has always wanted to face him.
Regardless of any development with St-Pierre, however, it is clear that Nurmagomedov wants to be active. He is currently serving a nine-month suspension from the Nevada State Athletic Commission for his role in a post-fight melee at UFC 229 in October. He is expected to return against interim champion Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 on Sept. 7 in Abu Dhabi.
“The lightweight division has a lot of contenders, and we need to keep the division going,” Abdelaziz said. “Khabib has done this before. He fought [Edson Barboza], Al [Iaquinta] and Conor [McGregor] in less than one year [from December 2017 to October 2018]. If it can be Georges in April, he would love that fight. If not, it can be any contender.”
When asked if Nurmagomedov, of Dagestan, has any interest in a rematch with McGregor, after the two continued to go back and forth on social media as recently as last month, Abdelaziz said it depends on whether McGregor reasserts himself as a No. 1 contender.
“To be honest, Conor is going to have to go out there and fight somebody like Justin Gaethje, Tony Ferguson or Cowboy [Donald Cerrone],” Abdelaziz said. “He’s not a worthy enough opponent right now. That’s the feeling from all of us, as a team.”
Of course, Nurmagomedov’s plan involves defeating Poirier at UFC 242 first — and that has his full attention, according to Abdelaziz.
It will mark a special event for Nurmagomedov, as it will take place in the United Arab Emirates, and his father is expected to corner him. Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov has not been able to corner Nurmagomedov in fights in the U.S. due to visa issues.
“Mixed martial arts in the Middle East and North Africa became so big after Khabib won his fight against Conor because Khabib was honoring these people,” Abdelaziz said. “To go to Abu Dhabi and put on a show for these people, to show these young, Muslim kids there is something called the UFC, and you can become a UFC champion — doesn’t matter what race or religion you come from — it’s very special for Khabib. He is an ambassador for that region.”