Justin Gaethje will not be trying to wrestle, submit, outpoint or even break Khabib Nurmagomedov this weekend.
Gaethje takes on Nurmagomedov in the UFC 254 headliner on Saturday as he looks to not only become the unified lightweight champion, but also the first to inflict defeat on “The Eagle” in the process.
Many believe “The Highlight” has the skillset to do so given the power in his hands as well as his wrestling credentials. But don’t expect Gaethje to test out the latter against Nurmagomedov as he will only be using his wrestling defensively.
And while Gaethje has a tendency to break people over the course of a fight — much like Nurmagomedov — he sees only one path to victory against the dominant champion and that’s getting a knockout.
“You don’t see it. The best thing is you have your hands on him so you can feel it,” Gaethje told Jimmy Smith when asked when he thought he would see Nurmagomedov’s breaking point. “You can feel him quit. I don’t believe that will happen here — the way I’m going to beat him is by putting him to sleep. Taking his body and taking consciousness away from his body. That’s how I win this fight. Neither one of us are going to quit, neither one of us are going to give up.
“We’ve both been training our whole lives. We both will give our lives for this opportunity. As shallow as that may sound, we live for something and it’s for this and we’ve been preparing our whole life for this. It’s who we are, it’s what we do and it’s going to be a great fight. I ain’t going out like no punk, I can promise you that. I’m going to represent the United States of America, I’m going to represent my family and I’m going to represent myself to the fullest when I step into that Octagon.”
Given that Nurmagomedov is yet to truly be hurt inside the Octagon, it will certainly be an uphill task. But if anyone has the capability of knocking the Dagestan native out, it’s certainly Gaethje.
UFC 254 takes place Saturday at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. The main card will begin at 2 p.m. ET.