Justin Gaethje may be known for his fight intelligence and durability inside of the Octagon, but undefeated UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagmedov believes he’s better in both facets.
Nurmagomedov, who is expected to defend his 155-pound title opposite Gaethje at UFC 254 on Oct. 24, is the most dominant fighter in the sport today. The undefeated Russian champion has only lost one round inside of the Octagon and that came against Conor McGregor two years go. It’s an incredible statistic and one of Khabib’s biggest accomplishment during his 12-fight UFC tenure.
Given his past accomplishments and current skill set, Nurmagomedov believes he’s going to have every advantage over Gaethje for their title unification bout later this month. That includes his ability to break down an opponent and implement the perfect gameplan.
“I don’t think it’s going to be a chess match, you know?” Nurmagomedov told reporters during UFC 254’s pre-fight virtual media day (replay HERE). “I think my fight IQ is much better than Justin Gaethje’s. He’s just a tough guy. He likes fighting. He likes blood, you know? He’s like a real warrior. But when we talk about fighting IQ, I think my fighting IQ is much better than his, you know?”
While many consider Gaethje one of the most well-rounded fighters at 155 pounds today and a guy who does well with in-fight adjustments, Khabib credits that success to Gaethje’s head coach, Trevor Wittman. According to Nurmagomedov, it is Wittman who pulls the strings and gives Gaethje the direction he needs.
“I think Justin, he has a very good coach – just my opinion,” Nurmagomedov said. “He has a great coach. If you can watch his last fight with Tony Ferguson, having cornered him, (Wittman) gave him very good advice. I think he has a very good and very great coach. Of course, Justin can fight. He can go deep. He has heart. But if you’re talking about fighting IQ, I think I have much better than him.”
Considering Khabib has never lost and has never even looked to be in trouble inside of the Octagon it’s hard to disagree with his views. But this is the fight game and anything is possible. Gaethje has been on an absolute tear of late and if Nurmagomedov isn’t careful he could very well taste defeat for the first time in his professional career.
“I’m going to try wrestling with him,” Nurmagomedov said. “If he’s going to defend my takedown one time, I’m going to try second, third, (all the way to) 100 times. Of course, I’m going to box with him and kick with him. It’s going to be kickboxing and wrestling – like, mixed. My goal is to make him tired. I’m going to make him tired. This is my goal. Maybe in Round No. 3 or Round No. 4, my plan is (to) finish him.”
UFC 254 will go down on Oct. 24 live on ESPN+ PPV from inside Flash Forum on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E., with Khabib vs. Gaethje serving as the main event.
For more UFC 254 fight card news click here.