The buildup to the lightweight title unification fight between Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov has been great so far. The two are set to fight for the belt in October, but the war of words has already started.
Khabib has said that he’ll drown Gaethje with his ground and pound skills. Gaethje, on the other hand, believes he’ll counter it with a ‘zone of death.’ Pretty aggressive language for both fighters, and it shows just how confident both are in their abilities.
Gaethje spoke to former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping on the Believe You Me podcast. During the appearance, he pointed out his experience in wrestling and gave some reasons for his own confidence going into this one.
Gaethje and the ‘zone of death’
“I was a Division-1 All-American…” Gaethje said. “Division-I college wrestling in America is the highest level other than going to the Olympics and wrestling on the international level. But weâ€™re not wrestling anymore.Thereâ€™s going to be a zone in front of me. Itâ€™s not very big. Itâ€™s going to be a zone of death, and if I have to represent death every time he enters the zone, thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m the best (at) â€“ creating carnage, creating car crashes.”
Gaethje stated further that creating as many of these ‘car crashes’ as possible is his goal. He also spoke about his current training partners, which includes some of the top current NCAA wrestlers, who he even admits to struggling against in training. He also had a reflection to make from his past fights.
“I have never not come out of the cage with my opponent not being broken from physical damage,” Gaethje said. There’s not much of a lie there. Gaethje only has two career losses and both of them were Fight of the Night performances where his opponent didn’t get off easy. “Heâ€™s never not walked out with a lot of physical damage, so weâ€™re going to see whoâ€™s going to impose their will. Itâ€™ll be interesting. I do think itâ€™ll be a battle for the ages.”
Nurmagomedov is unlike any opponent that Gaethje has faced before. However, his victory against Tony Ferguson in the fifth round is proof that Gaethje can hang with some of the top ground fighters in the game.
At UFC 254, we’ll see if that experience is enough to hang with Khabib, who is still undefeated and on the hunt for a 30-0 record before retirement. It will be a while before the event takes place. It’s scheduled for October 24th, 2020. But based on the talk so far, it looks like it’s worth the wait.