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Return of 'The Eagle': UFC boss Dana White confirms timeframe for Khabib Nurmagomedov's UFC comeback

Return of 'The Eagle': UFC boss Dana White confirms timeframe for Khabib Nurmagomedov's UFC comeback
Fight fans won't be waiting long for the return of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, after UFC president Dana White confirmed the timeframe for the Russian champion's return in an interview on Friday.

Nurmagomedov, who hasn't competed since a submission victory against Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi last September, looks set to be out of action until at least the same point this year after White confirmed to ESPN's Brett Okamoto that the promotion is targeting a September or October return for their reigning 155lb champion. 

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Of course, Khabib had been scheduled to defend his lightweight crown against Tony Ferguson in one of the most anticipated fights in mixed martial arts history this month before difficulties surrounding restriction of movement during the coronavirus pandemic forced Nurmagomedov's withdrawal from the bout. It was the FIFTH time that the fight has fallen apart in recent years.

In place of that fight, the UFC opted to target another lightweight contender, Justin Gaethje, to step in against Ferguson on the same April 18 date intended for the Khabib-Ferguson fight. But White was then forced to pull the plug on the event after calls from senior executives from both ESPN and its parent company Disney.

Undaunted, White has confirmed that the Ferguson-Gaethje bout will take place in Florida on May 9 with the 155lb interim title up for grabs – with the winner almost certainly facing Nurmagomedov in September or October.

Part of the reason for the delay in Khabib's return to action is understood to be his strict observance of Ramadan, which began yesterday and runs until the evening of May 23.

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Now Gaethje finds himself thrust into an enviable position in the UFC's lightweight fold. A win against Ferguson would see him play the ultimate spoiler role in removing, possibly forever, the chances of seeing Nurmagomedov and Ferguson fight. 

A Tony Ferguson win on May 9th? Well, that will put the Khabib-Ferguson train very much back on the rails.