UFC president Dana White revealed Khabib Nurmagomedov will fight Justin Gaethje in September – with the winner then facing Conor McGregor.
American Gaethje, 33, set up a unification clash with lightweight king Khabib, 31, after winning the interim belt against Tony Ferguson, 36, at UFC 249.
The pair could now unify their titles on the UFC’s ‘Fight Island’ – which is also set to feature McGregor’s return.
And though The Notorious finds himself momentarily frozen out of the title picture, White has reassured the 31-year-old Irishman he will be next in line to face the either Nurmagomedov and Gaethje.
He told Tim & Sid: “I actually talked to Khabib today, Khabib told me he’d be ready in September.
“Earlier today, I had said [he could fight] this summer, because we were texting back and forth last night and it sounded to me like he was ready to go, but he’s said September.
“Obviously I don’t know what the world is going to look like in September, but I assume it’s still going to be hard to get people in and out of the country so I am definitely thinking it’s going to be on Fight Island.
“Obviously Gaethje and Khabib is going to happen, looks like that’s going to happen in September,” White said. “And we’ll figure out what’s next for Conor.
“Conor will probably fight this summer, then you have [Gaethje-Khabib] fight in September, and then that will line up a fight up for the winner.”
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McGregor had tweeted to predict Nurmagomedov will “bottle” out of fighting Gaethje, leaving him to instead fight for the belt.
But White is adamant the current lightweight belt holders will fight each other, with McGregor instead having to look elsewhere for his next opponent.
And despite The Notorious blasting “scurrying rat” Khabib, he appeared to drop his rivalry with the unbeaten Russian after wishing his father Abdulmanap a speed recovery, with the 57-year-old in a critical condition and placed in a coma.