- Khabib Nurmagomedov defends his UFC lightweight championship against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 on October 24.
- Nurmagomedov is a dominant and undefeated athlete who has shown a mastery of grappling, takedowns, and ground-and-pound through 28 professional fights.
- But Gaethje said Monday that he intends to fight standing-up, creating a “zone of death” which he hopes Nurmagomedov will regret entering.
- He said he wants to create car crashes in every exchange, regardless of whether that’s fist to head, head to head, or shoulders.
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Justin Gaethje’s strategy for the Khabib Nurmagomedov title fight involves “representing death,” creating carnage and car crashes, the American said.
Gaethje produced the performance of a lifetime when he accepted an interim lightweight title bout on short notice in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic against Tony Ferguson at a behind-closed doors UFC show in May.
Ferguson had won 12 UFC fights in a row, leaving many of his opponents splattered in blood.
However, at UFC 249 inside the near-empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, it was Ferguson who was the one to bleed as Gaethje “tortured” him before winning by stoppage in the fifth and final round.
Victory teed up a UFC lightweight title fight against the Dagestani wrestler Khabib Nurmagomedov, who heads into his 29th bout at UFC 254 in October with a flawless, unbeaten record.
Speaking to the former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping on the “Believe You Me” podcast, Gaethje said his strategy for the fight will include the creation of a “zone of death” which he hopes Nurmagomedov will regret entering every time he encroaches that space.
Gaethje, an expert striker with a collegiate wrestling background, told Bisping he doesn’t intend to use his wrestling base in the 155-pound fight.
“We’re not wrestling anymore,” Gaethje said. “There’s gonna be a zone in front of me, it’s not very big, and I have to represent death every time he enters this zone. That’s what I’m the best at, creating carnage, creating car crashes.”
Despite competing 28 times, Nurmagomedov has barely lost a round, let alone a fight. In that run, he has displayed a mastery of grappling, takedowns, and ground-and-pound.
Gaethje, though, hopes to fight Nurmagomedov on his feet. “Whether it be our bodies hitting, our heads hitting, our f—— shoulders hitting, my fist hitting his head, his fist hitting my head, it doesn’t matter. I need to create car crashes because it’s the only way to beat this guy.”
The 31-year-old, who has a record of 22 wins (19 knockouts, one submission, and two decisions) against two losses, said the contest will be decided by whoever can best impose their will on the other.
Nurmagomedov thinks he’s ‘infallible,’ Gaethje said
Nurmagomedov’s weakness is that “he thinks he’s infallible” and has an entourage around him who “stroke his ego,” Gaethje said.
“I believe that culture, this is what I’m counting on anyways, they can stroke your ego. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it over there. I’ve seen fighters really just surround themselves with a posse that really pumps them up and jacks them up.”
Nurmagomedov, though, is still human, Gaethje said. “He breathes oxygen. His brain needs to get oxygen. If I can short-circuit that oxygen supply for half a second, then he’ll go to sleep.”
In a response to Gaethje’s comments, Nurmagomedov said on Instagram: “I like how he talks and his confidence. So this fight promises to be the best fight this year.”
Nurmagomedov also said he, too, has a strategy in store on October 24 – but he stopped short of explaining what that is.
“I have something new to show the world.”