The UFC confirmed the news on Tuesday evening.
The title unification bout has been expected since Gaethje (22-2) defeated Tony Ferguson in May for the division’s interim strap, though the death of Nurmagomedov’s father Abdulmanap earlier this month due to coronavirus-related complications led some to question the Russian’s future in the sport.
Nurmagomedov’s father – a highly respected figure in the world of MMA – was also the lightweight champion’s head coach, and ‘The Eagle’ had already said that he felt he was nearing the end of his fighting career.
The undefeated Nurmagomedov (28-0) last competed in September 2019, successfully defending his title against Dustin Poirier via third-round submission.
Meanwhile, Gaethje’s last outing was a career-defining performance, with the American stopping Ferguson in the fifth round to seemingly rule out any chance of Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson ever taking place.
Ferguson had long been seen as the most dangerous opponent for Nurmagomedov, 31, and a bout between the two was scheduled on five occasions across five years, falling through every time – most recently in April.
Gaethje’s wrestling credentials and the Arizonan’s impressive showing against Ferguson have led many to believe that ‘The Highlight’, 31, has now proven himself to be the most testing challenge for Nurmagomedov in the lightweight division, however.
Nurmagomedov vs Gaethje is expected to be the main event when the pair clash at UFC 254.