When Justin Gaethje defeated Tony Ferguson during UFC 249, he proclaimed that he was ready for his next challenge. He wants to face Khabib Nurmagomedov, the current lightweight champion. This bout is expected to take place, but it will potentially be in a very unique location. The highly-anticipated event is believed to be destined for "Fight Island."
UFC president Dana White spoke with ESPN 100 in Chicago recently about the impending title bout. He did confirm that Gaethje and Nurmagomedov will fight later this summer. White also said that the bout will take place on a private island. He expects the COVID-19 pandemic to still be prevalent and forcing sports to avoid fans, so holding the event on the island will aid in following guidelines.
"I expect [Nurmagomedov vs. Gaethje] to happen this summer," White said. "I don't know if it will be the first one, but it will be on Fight Island unless miraculously the world comes back together faster than I think it's gonna." The location of Fight Island has not been disclosed, but White expects the construction to be done in mid-June. This includes a facility for the fighters to train and take part in bouts.
White revealed to TMZ Sports in early April that he was days away from securing a private island to hold fights. The COVID-19 pandemic had resulted in a postponement of the sport due to health and safety concerns. The UFC has since held an event in Jacksonville and stated that it could soon be returning to Las Vegas. For now, however, White believes that Fight Island will be the destination for this — and many other — events.
In terms of timeline, it appears that the title fight could take place in July. Nurmagomedov is Muslim and is currently observing Ramadan. This holy month ends on May 23, and the lightweight champion said that he will need 45 days to recover. He also posted a comment recently saying that he will be "ready to go" in July.
There are several factors that will be taken into account when Fight Island opens, such as travel. White previously told TMZ Sports that the UFC has planes that will be used to shuttle fighters to and from the island. He also revealed that there will be strict testing. White is planning on testing fighters, judges, and everyone involved multiple times. They will be tested prior to heading to the island, as well as during their stay. Additionally, the fighters and judges will be tested following each event.
The date of the highly-anticipated title fight has not been revealed just yet, but fans can begin looking forward to a new experience. The UFC will be broadcasting from an entirely different facility, one that has occasionally been compared to video game settings. The concept of Fight Island was used in several memes when it was revealed, but White is fully committed to having it serve as the home of top events.