ABU DHABI – MMA lost one of its most respected figures last week when Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, the father of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and the patriarch of the sport in Russia, died at 57 due to COVID-19 complications.

The sense of loss extends to the UFC itself and president Dana White, who spoke Friday about the relationship father and son had.

“It’s terrible,” White told reporters, including MMA Junkie, after UFC 251 weigh-ins. “We feel horrible for Khabib. We know how much he loves his father and how close they were.”

Coincidentally, Abu Dhabi, which hosts UFC 251 on Saturday night, was also the scene of the younger Nurmagomedov’s most recent bout, in which he successfully defended his championship against Dustin Poirier last September to run his record to 28-0. Unfortunately, that would turn out to be the final time Khabib had his father in his corner.

Before the elder Nurmagomedov fell ill, it was widely believed that Khabib would fight interim champ Justin Gaethje in a title unifier most likely in September, potentially in Abu Dhabi.

White, however, indicated that the UFC will put no pressure on Nurmagomedov to get back in the cage any time soon and give him the space necessary to process one of the most traumatic events that occurs in anyone’s life.

“We’re not messing with Khabib. We’re leaving Khabib alone. Khabib needs time,” White said. “Khabib is going to need time to get his head straight and figure out what’s next for him, you know? So we’re just gonna leave him alone for a little while. We’ll figure it out.”