Khabib Nurmagomedov’s teammate Daniel Cormier has admitted he thought the UFC lightweight world would take a longer break following the tragic death of his father, as Khabib prepares for an October comeback against Justin Gaethje.

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died at the age of 57 from complications stemming from a Covid-19 infection last month, after being diagnosed with the virus back in May.

UFC president Dana White said soon after Abdulmanap’s passing that Khabib would be given as much time as he needed to mourn his father’s passing, stating there was no pressure to compete this year.

But it was announced toward the end of July that Nurmagomedov would be making a defense of his lightweight title against Gaethje, who stopped Tony Ferguson in emphatic fashion three months ago.

Gaethje and Nurmagomedov have the same manager in Ali Abdelaziz and the two have always been respectful with each other. But on October 24, the pair will fight for undisputed lightweight gold. 

Cormier, however, who has his own world title assignment to adhere to on August 15 when he goes up against Stipe Miocic in Las Vegas, says he was ‘taken aback’ by Khabib’s next fight announcement.

Cormier and Nurmagomedov are American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) teammates and the duo have been good friends for years.

“I was a little nervous initially,” Cormier explained to MMA Junkie.

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on Feb 19, 2020 at 2:53pm PST

“Not nervous, I was taken a little aback. After I did the show (for ESPN) I had heard that Khabib was looking more at getting going sooner than later.

“So, when the announcement was made, it didn’t surprise me because I had an inclination it was going to happen.

“But I thought he would be away for a while. But nothing makes me happier than my champion coming back and defending his belt.”

Khabib tweeted a cryptic message on his Instagram account on Tuesday afternoon, ending the note by counting down to his fight with Gaethje.

He wrote in Russian: “There will always be questions, there will be many 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.  80 days before the fight #ufc254.”

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

The undefeated Russian has not fought since his third-round submission win over Dustin Poirier last September on in Abu Dhabi at UFC 242.

He was scheduled to fight Ferguson back in April at UFC 249 but due to Covid-19 restrictions, the fight was canceled and Gaethje stepped in to beat his American counterpart.

Fans had long been looking forward to a fight between Khabib and Ferguson, who have been due to do battle on five separate occasions over the past several years.