Justin Gaethje is in a weird place right now. After waiting on the sidelines he suddenly found himself cast into title contention. Khabib Nurmagamedov was trapped in Russia so he stepped in to fight Tony Ferguson for an interim title. While it was scrapped, it was a gamechanger for ‘The Highlight.’
However, Ferguson v Gaethje will go ahead. Ramadan is the latest impediment for Khabib so he’ll be out of action until at least the autumn. It’s a blow to fans hoping to see Ferguson v Khabib. This fight has fallen apart five times. However, Ferguson v Gaethje is, on paper, an even more exciting clash.
If Gaethje beats Ferguson then a unification clash with Khabib is on the cards. Meanwhile, his manager Ali Abdelaziz – who also represents Khabib – is willing to make it happen. Isn’t that nice of him?
Speaking to MMAJunkie, Abdelaziz made it clear that he’s happy for them to fight. In short, it was an opportunity to take shots at Audie Atar and Conor McGregor. Attar used to represent both the Irishman and Ferguson. However, Ferguson wasn’t happy. In the end, he left Paradigm for new management. Abdelaziz said:
“You saw Henry Cejudo fought Marlon Moraes before. If Gaethje is going to be interim champion, he’s going to fight Khabib for the undisputed lightweight championship. These guys work all their lives to become a champion. Who am I to step in the way to making that happen? I know Tony had a problem before with Conor McGregor, but that’s not how I do business.
“I don’t think it’s fair for a manager or a promoter to stop a guy from having his dreams come true of becoming the undisputed UFC champion. If Justin wins, it’s a fair fight. Him and Khabib will fight.”
He also gave an optimistic return date for Khabib. Abdelaziz believes that the Russian will be ready by August. However, September makes sense because the UFC is likely to return to Abu Dhabi then. Khabib is a massive star in the Arab world so he will most likely be on that card.
“I think he can be back in August,” Abdelaziz said of Nurmagomedov. “He told me originally the UFC had scheduled a San Francisco fight, I think it was August 1. He can fight there, it’s no problem. It doesn’t have to be September. But, as you know, (in) September they always have this Abu Dhabi card and I’m sure the UFC wants him to fight there.”
While Abdelaziz has his detractors, you can’t deny he gets the job done. He’s the only manager right now with three UFC champions in his stable. As well as Khabib, he also represents Kamaru Usman and Henry Cejudo. Meanwhile, the PFL has a close relationship with the Egyptian. His methods and personality might be sketchy but he’s doing something right.
Gaethje v Khabib is an interesting potential match-up. Gaethje has better stand-up. He also has outstanding wrestling which he never uses so it’s a moot point. Can he stop the takedown? Tony Ferguson will do his best to stop us from ever finding out. Exciting times at 155lbs.