|Venue: Yas Island, Abu Dhabi Date: Saturday, 24 October|
|Observe dwell textual content protection of the principle card on the BBC Sport web site and app from 19:00 BST|
Khabib Nurmagomedov will likely be near changing into the best MMA fighter of all time if he wins at UFC 254, says UFC president Dana White.
The undefeated light-weight champion faces American interim champion Justin Gaethje in a unification bout on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island on Saturday.
Russian Nurmagomedov, 32, has a 28-0 document, whereas Gaethje, 31, is 22-2.
“Khabib’s a giant famous person. But when he beats Justin, he is on his approach to GOAT standing,” mentioned White.
“He is wanting down the barrel of not solely being the best to ever do it on this division however being the primary pound-for-pound fighter on the earth.”
Nurmagomedov has hinted at retiring if he reaches a 30-0 document and, requested on the pre-fight press convention about attaining the identical standing as boxing greats Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson, he mentioned: “I do not know if I can ever develop into shut to those individuals.
“I did not have this aim; I simply need to win each struggle. We’ll see sooner or later as a result of I am not completed but. After I retire, I need to retire [as the] undisputed, undefeated UFC light-weight champion.”
This struggle will likely be Nurmagomedov’s first with out his father and coach Abdulmanap in his nook after he died in July, aged 57, following problems attributable to coronavirus.
“An important factor for me is to remain shut with your loved ones and mates, as a result of at the moment you are champion, tomorrow every part can change,” mentioned Nurmagomedov.
“I am so pleased with these items as a result of I feel I used to be child for my dad and mom.”
Requested about an animation paying tribute to his father and charting his journey from wrestling bears as a toddler, Nurmagomedov mentioned: “Lots of people have despatched me the video. It is an important video – I actually prefer it.”
Probably the most dominant v probably the most violent?
After beating Dustin Poirier final September, Nurmagomedov was because of face Tony Ferguson in April, however the long-awaited match-up was cancelled for a fifth time due to coronavirus journey restrictions.
Gaethje stepped in to struggle Ferguson at UFC 249 and produced the perfect efficiency of his profession to develop into the interim light-weight champion.
“I am not even purported to be right here. This was purported to be Tony Ferguson,” mentioned Gaethje. “I bought that chance and I took it from him.
“I am a performer. I all the time present up underneath the lights. That is what I do. On Saturday I’ll go away every part, give every part, and be pleased with my efficiency.”
Nurmagomedov is famend for his wrestling abilities, which have stifled and steadily damaged down his earlier 28 opponents.
Gaethje was an All-American wrestler in school so is assured of defending takedowns, but in addition possesses devastating punching energy, profitable his previous 4 fights by knockout.
He has earned 9 bonuses from his seven UFC fights – for Efficiency or Combat of the Evening – and UFC has billed this bout as ‘probably the most dominant versus probably the most violent’.
“Greater than Conor (McGregor) and Dustin and different guys, he is aware of wrestle, however what about wrestling for 25 minutes?” requested Nurmagomedov.
“They’re all good once they arise, however after I seize them it adjustments a little bit bit. Even when I attempt to take him down as soon as and his defence is nice, I’ve ready myself to attempt to take him down 100 instances.”
White added: “You’ve got all of the elements for a large struggle. You’ve got a giant famous person and a child coming off an unbelievable win over a extremely revered fighter and many individuals consider that Justin has the type to beat him.
“You suppose what these guys are going to do, however once they get in there something is feasible.”
The co-main occasion options the top-two middleweight contenders as former champion Robert Whittaker of Australia takes on Jared Cannonier, the veteran American on a three-fight knockout streak.
Two top-10 heavyweights meet as Russia’s Alexander Volkov faces Walt Harris of the US, whereas London’s Nathaniel Wooden has his second bout on Combat Island having overwhelmed John Castaneda on the identical card as Whittaker’s win over Liverpool’s Darren Until in July.
Wooden, 27, takes on Casey Kenney in a bantamweight contest among the many preliminary fights.