Venue: Flash Forum, City: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Date: Saturday, October 24, 2020 / 8:00 PM CS
UFC 254: Khabib vs. Gaethje is an upcoming mixed martial arts event produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship that will take place on October 24, 2020 at the Flash Forum on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
It’s the second pay-per-view event of the promotion’s second residency in the Middle East after a spate of shows on home turf in Las Vegas.
A pivotal middleweight matchup between ex-champ Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier serves as the event’s co-headliner. Cannonier was identified as the No. 1 contender by Israel Adesanya after the middleweight champ ran roughshod over Paulo Costa this past Saturday at UFC 253.
The title unifier between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje was originally targeted for UFC 253, but it was pushed back after the passing of Nurmagomedov’s father, Abdulmanap, due to complications from COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic stalled Nurmagomedov’s title plans when he was unable to leave his native Russia for a long-awaited bout with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. In Nurmagomedov’s place went Gaethje, who seized the initiative and stopped Ferguson in the fifth round to become the interim champ.
Currently, there are 12 bouts planned for UFC 254’s fight card.
The plan is to proceed with local timing for prime time hours. The main card is scheduled to begin at 10:00 pm (October 24) local time in Abu Dhabi, with a full preliminary card beginning at approximately 6:15 pm Gulf Standard Time.
A UFC Lightweight Championship unification bout between current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Justin Gaethje (also former WSOF Lightweight Champion) has been tabbed to serve as the event headliner. The bout was briefly linked to UFC 253, but the date did not materialize and will instead take place five weeks later. On September 17, the UFC announced the signing of former three-time Bellator Lightweight World Champion Michael Chandler, who is expected to serve as backup and potential replacement for this fight.
A middleweight bout between former UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker and Jared Cannonier was initially scheduled to take place in March at UFC 248, but Whittaker pulled out due to personal reasons. The pairing has now been rescheduled for this event.
A featherweight bout between The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America featherweight winner Yair Rodríguez and Zabit Magomedsharipov is expected to take place at this event. The pairing has been scheduled on two previous occasions, first at UFC 228 in September 2018 and then at UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakić in August of this year. However, Rodríguez pulled out of both events with injury.
Magomed Ankalaev and Ion Cuțelaba first met in a light heavyweight bout at UFC Fight Night: Benavidez vs. Figueiredo, where Ankalaev won via controversial knockout. Due to the controversy of the stoppage, the UFC booked the rematch for UFC 249, on its original April 18 date. However, Ankalaev was forced to pull out of the event due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. They were later rebooked for UFC 252, but Cuțelaba then pulled out after testing positive for COVID-19 and the bout was rescheduled for UFC Fight Night: Smith vs. Rakić. Cuțelaba tested positive yet again on the day of the event, resulting in another cancellation of this fight. In turn, they were rescheduled for a third time and will meet at this event.
Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos was expected to face Shavkat Rakhmonov in a welterweight bout at the event. However, Zaleski pulled out in late September due to a knee injury that will require surgery. A replacement is expected to be sought by the promotion.
Official Fight Card
|Lightweight||Khabib Nurmagomedov||vs.||Justin Gaethje|
|Middle Weight||Robert Whittaker||vs.||Jared Cannonier|
|Heavyweight||Alexander Volkov||vs.||Walt Harris|
|Lightweight||Islam Makhachev||vs.||Rafael dos Anjos|
|Women's Flyweight||Cynthia Calvillo||vs.||Lauren Murphy|
|Light Heavyweight||Magomed Ankalaev||vs.||Ion Cuțelaba|
|Heavyweight||Stefan Struve||vs.||Tai Tuivasa|
|Middleweight||Jacob Malkoun||vs.||Phil Hawes|
|Bantamweight||Umar Nurmagomedov||vs.||Sergey Morozov|
*Fights labeled as "may not be broadcast" are scheduled to take place before the live broadcast begins. These pre-recorded fights are inserted into the broadcast if time permits. However, due to broadcast time constraints some of these undercard bouts may not be seen on a broadcast. These additional bout can be found as bonus footage on the event DVD.