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Khabib Nurmagomedov: Dana White says ‘something special’ next if I beat Justin Gaethje

Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t sure what will motivate him to fight beyond UFC 254, but predicts there will be options.

Nurmagomedov (28-0 MMA, 12-0 UFC) will make his return on Oct. 24, taking on Justin Gaethje in the pay-per-view headliner at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi.

While Nurmagomedov reiterated numerous times at a virtual pre-fight news conference Thursday he’s not overlooking Gaethje (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), the UFC lightweight champion discussed his long-term plans when asked.

“It’s a very good question, honestly – a very good question,” Nurmagomedov said when asked about future motivating factors. “I don’t know. I don’t know. You know, for example, I’m going to finish Justin Gaethje inside the cage Oct. 24 but what else? This is a very good question. We’ll see. You know, I love competition. I love competing with the best fighters in the world. That’s why I’m here. I’m not in the UFC to make money. I have a lot of business projects outside the UFC. I can make money. It’s a good question – very good question.”

Nurmagomedov, 32, has made his long-term intentions known in the past. He plans on retiring while he’s on top. That said, Nurmagomedov doesn’t think UFC 254 will be his final outing – especially when UFC president Dana White has hinted to him that major things are on the horizon for him.

“I don’t think (I’ll retire),” Chandler said. “We have a couple of options. We’re going to think about this after this fight. Dana told me, after this fight, he has something special for me. I told him, ‘Please keep this (to yourself). After the fight, we’re going to talk.’ They said, ‘We have very big things after this fight for you.’ We’ll see.”

Since defeating Al Iaquinta to fill the vacant championship at UFC 223 in April 2018, Nurmagomedov has successfully defended his title twice. In October 2018 at UFC 229, Nurmagomedov submitted rival Conor McGregor in Round 4. At UFC 242 in September 2019, Nurmagomedov picked up another submission victory. This time, it was Dustin Poirier in Round 3.

Nurmagomedov was scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in April but was forced to withdraw after the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak caused travel issues. The event was postponed to May and Gaethje stepped in to defeat Ferguson by fifth-round TKO.

UFC 254 takes place Saturday, Oct. 24 at Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view after prelims on ESPN/ESPN+.

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