Ahead of his title fight against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, Khabib Nurmagomedov made it clear he’s not a big fan of the lack of crowds during the COVID-10 pandemic. The Dagestani lightweight champ would rather fight in front of the fans, as it brings him “good energy”.
The UFC has continued to have no fans at their events, apart from a small selection of special guests. But the unbeaten 28-0 king of the 155 lb division is used to fighting in front of sold-out crowds—such as when he defended his title against Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi last year.
“When I fight here at [UFC] 242, one year ago, it was crazy crowd, crazy fans around the world come here, a lot of people from my family, like my father was with me,” Khabib told UFC Arabia. “It was great time last time in Abu Dhabi when I fight and right now it’s different without fans. Honestly, this energy I don’t like. I really want to fight when the fans come back, but what can we do?” (Transcription via MMA Fighting)
Having not fought since September of last year, Khabib’s highly anticipated title fight with Gaethje on October 24th will be the Russian’s first UFC fight during the pandemic. Nurmagomedov explained how that dynamic completely changes the course of the fight, since the fans bring “good energy” that he relies on during his bouts.
“When fans are there, this is like different level energy,” Khabib said. “With the fans and without fans is completely two different fights. Some fighters, when they don’t have fans, they fight good. When they have fans they fight little bit bad because they’re nervous. If you talk about myself, I love fans. When fans are there, they give me good energy. Even if they support me or not, I have very good energy when fans are there.
UFC 254 takes place live from ‘Fight Island’, Abu Dhabi this Saturday, October 24th. Khabib vs. Gaethje is expected to serve as the main event. A middleweight top contender’s bout between Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier is set for the co-main.
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