When Justin Gaethje stepped in to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov against Tony Ferguson in May, a long-awaited lightweight title clash ended up scrapped -- again -- and Gaethje emerged as UFC interim lightweight champion with a lopsided victory over Ferguson. Instead of Nurmagomedov vs. Ferguson, the lightweight fight to book became a title unification with lightweight champ Nurmagomedov squaring off with new interim lightweight champ Gaethje. That fight now has a date.
Speaking with CNN, UFC president Dana White confirmed a date for the lightweight unification bout, though a location and venue have yet to be determined. A short time later on Tuesday, the UFC confirmed the lightweight title showdown as official.
"It's going to happen, I tell you right here right now," White said. "That fight's going to happen. Khabib versus Gaethje, Oct. 24."
Earlier this month, Nurmagomedov's father, Abdulmanap, died following complications related to COVID-19. Despite the circumstances surrounding the loss of his father, friend and trainer, White said the lightweight champion will be ready to step back into the Octagon later this year.
"It's been very rough on him," White said. "His father was a hero to him, he loved his father, they had a very close relationship and it was very hard on him."
Abdulmanap had mentioned a plan in the past for Nurmagomedov to retire with a 30-0 professional record. A victory over Gaethje would move him to 29-0 and one fight away from the goal.
White, speaking with ESPN earlier in the week, said that he would be open to letting Nurmagomedov hand-pick his final opponent before his potential retirement -- even if that meant a fight with UFC legend Georges St-Pierre.
"At the end of the day, the Conor McGregor [rematch], I know Conor has wanted that fight since the last one [in October 2018]," White said. "That's a fight to make, but I don't know. We'll see how this plays out. Sure, [I would be open to St-Pierre] if it's his last fight. This guy's been great to the company, great to the sport. I like Khabib a lot. I would do anything Khabib wanted to do."