Esther Lin, MMA Fighting
Well, it’s official. Tomorrow, UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will defend his title against interim champion Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC 254. Both fighters officially made championship weight earlier this morning and now they only thing left to do is get in the cage and settle up. But though the fight is being held in Khabib’s “second home” of Abu Dhabi, this time, things will be very different for the lightweight champion.
Khabib last fought at UFC 242 in Abu Dhabi to a raucous crowd of fans, most in support of him. However, that was in pre-COVID times and tomorrow, Yas Arena will be empty of all save event staff, the fighters, and their entourages. It will be Khabib’s first experience competing without fans in attendance and the champ admits the experience is different so far and that he doesn’t like it that much.
“When I fight here at 242, one year ago, it was crazy crowd, crazy fans around the world come here, a lot of people from my family, like my father was with me,” Khabib told UFC Arabia. “It was great time last time in Abu Dhabi when I fight and right now it’s different without fans. Honestly, this energy I don’t like. I really want to fight when the fans come back, but what can we do?”
In the last week, there had been rumors circulating that some fans may be allowed to attend the event, however those appear to have been only rumor and certainly wouldn’t be the same as the throngs of people who are normally in attendance for a Khabib fight. When the UFC first began holding events without fans, many fighters revealed that the change was bigger than they though it would be and for someone like Khabib, who is used to sold out events, that could prove even more distracting. However, even though he admits thaat fans give him an extra boost, the champion doesn’t think the lack of them will affect the outcome.
“When fans are there, this is like different level energy,” Khabib said. “With the fans and without fans is completely two different fights. Some fighters, when they don’t have fans, they fight good. When they have fans they fight little bit bad because they’re nervous. If you talk about myself, I love fans. When fans are there, they give me good energy. Even if they support me or not, I have very good energy when fans are there.
“Now I’m gonna fight without fans, we’ll see. We’ll see, but when cage close, I think nothing gonna change. I’m just gonna go and hunt and try to find my opponent.”
Should Khabib successfully defend his title tomorrow, fighting without fans will likely be a one-time occurrence for him. Though the global pandemic continues, some locations have managed to mitigate the coronavirus well enough to start opening up sporting venues again. The next time Khabib fights, likely next Spring or Summer, it would almost certainly back in front of legions of fans. However, who he may fight is still very much up for discussion. The frontrunner would seem to be the winner of a proposed rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, but like the lack of fans, Khabib says this potential fight doesn’t give him “good energy.”
“I don’t think I’m gonna give these guys a rematch or something like this,” Nurmagomedov said. “They don’t deserve this. I fight with them both, I finish both of them, and these fights don’t give me good energy. For example, vs. Justin Gaethje, it’s like I can’t wait. This fight makes me excited, but Dustin or Conor, these guys don’t make me excited because I already beat them. Why I have to fight with them?”
Considering that Khabib has hinted at retiring following his next bout, it’s easy to see why he’s less interested in rematching an opponent he has already submitted. Instead, Khabib seems to have his eyes on a superfight with Georges St-Pierre, a bout Dana White has both shown interest in and been reticent to say they would make happen. One thing is for sure though, if the UFC can put together Khabib vs. GSP, the champion would certainly have good energy for that fight.
Khabib training camp.
Masvidal on Khabib-Gaethje.
Fights Gone By. Previewing UFC 254 and the main event lightweight title fight.
MMA Vivisection. Previewing all the key fights at UFC 254.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Fighters like @Leon_edwardsmma deserve better treatment.
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If the rumors are true Edwards turned down 5 fights when healthy. Now I see the point for the ranking removal . But that’s just what I heard #TMD
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Throwing shade at Michael Chandler.
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Good to have a calling card.
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Well, it’s finally here. The toughest test of Khaib’s career and the chance for Justing Gaethje to become immortal. Should be a good time.
Thanks for reading and see y’all on Monday.
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