Ahead of his first fight in almost 14 months against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has said that his training is progressing well before his return following the death of his father.

Khabib shared his first photo in sparring since the death of his trainer, father and mentor Abdulmanap last week, putting his arms around cousins and fighters Usman and Umar as he began to look ahead to his bout with interim champion Gaethje on October 24.

His most recent session was with UFC welterweight, former Russian sambo champion and cousin Abubakar Nurmagomedov, who looked into the camera as he sat adjacent to Khabib with sweat visible on the walls and floor.

Abubakar was involved in a tussle with Conor McGregor during the incendiary scenes that followed Khabib’s win over his rival in October 2018, when both fighters’ entourages became embroiled in brawling that spilled outside of the Octagon.

11 недель до боя, вроде бы все по плану, ни дня без изобразительного искусства. See you on #ufc254

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Aug 9, 2020 at 4:23am PDT

Вопросы всегда будут, их будет не мало, самое главное, чтоб ты сам знал на них ответы, иллюзии могут засесть в твоей голове надолго. 80 дней до боя. #ufc254

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Aug 4, 2020 at 7:14am PDT

Khabib has revealed that his preparations for his first contest without the input of the hugely influential Abdalmanap will be “different from all my previous preparation.”

He will be working with American Kickboxing Academy trainer Javier Mendez from next month as he bids to reassert his dominance over the division in his first scrap since he submitted Dustin Poirier last September.

Earlier this week, the unbeaten Dagestani marked 80 days until his meeting with Gaethje by portraying himself kneeling and performing push-ups as part of his training, adding: “There will always be questions, there will be quite a few of them.

“The most important thing is that you yourself know the answers to them. Illusions can sit in your head for a long time.”

Having taken his bicycle for a long ride on Friday, his latest exertions won admiraton from the likes of wrestling champion Roman Vlasov, who wrote: “Strength and patience for you, Khabib.”