UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has declared that the lineup for his hotly-anticipated return to action, when he will face Justin Gaethje on October 24 at UFC 254, is “full of killers” and the “best card of the year”.

Nurmagomedov will be the star of the show when he steps into the Octagon for the first time in more than 13 months against interim champion Justin Gaethje, but the undefeated Russian has also expressed his excitement about an undercard that features Gaethje’s last victim, Tony Ferguson, against Dustin Poirier, who Nurmagomedov beat when he last fought.

2 champion, 4 former champion, 4 title challengers. How do you like this card with full of killers. Best card of the year.

“Two champions, four former champion, four title challengers,” Nurmagomedov told his following of more than 1.1 million on Twitter. “How do you like this card full of killers? Best card of the year.”

Khabib compatriot Zabit Magomedsharipov, who has made an unbeaten start to his six-fight UFC career and won two Performance of the Night and two Fight of the Night awards, takes on former Ultimate Fighter champion Yair Rodriguez in a featherweight showdown before Poirier and Gaethje meet.

The rivals had been due to provide the main event on a card at the end of August before Rodriguez suffered a foot injury, giving their bout an added edge after Magomedsharipov accused his opponent of withdrawing through cowardice, leading the Mexican to promise him “a real good taste of my big Mexican balls”.

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Aug 30, 2020 at 1:40pm PDT

Former middleweight champion Robert Whittaker also takes on Jared Cannonier, the veteran with three consecutive knockout wins, all within two rounds, to his name before a pectoral injury ruled him out of their original March clash as part of a six-month rehabilitiation.

Another ex-lightweight king, Rafael dos Anjos, returns to the division for the first time since losing a decision to Ferguson in 2016, fighting feared Russian Islam Makhachev, who has not fought since beating Davi Ramos on the undercard of Nurmagomedov’s last win for his sixth straight victory.

Nurmagomedov has been sharing snippets from his busy training schedule with his vast fanbase on Instagram, helped by a team including his fighter cousins, Abubakar and Usman.

UFC 254 is likely to take place on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which has been holding events since July after being built to host fights during the coronavirus pandemic.