No one to date has been able to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov in the cage. But Justin Gaethje believes he has the greatest chance of handing the UFC’s lightweight champ his first 0.
Gaethje returned to the Octagon this past weekend at UFC Philadelphia (as you surely know), and proceeded to quickly bomb out Edson Barboza in the main event. It marked the second straight time “The Highlight” has recorded a first round, knockout, as last August Gaethje put away James Vick. The wins also followed back-to-back defeats Gaethje suffered against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier.
After the electrifying win, the former WSOF champ had this to say about the importance of the victory, as well as Khabib (quotes via MMA Fighting):
“God, it’s such an unforgiving sport,” Gaethje said . “I mean, we work so hard. I’ve worked for 12 weeks, day-in and day-out, made so many sacrifices, and still the self-doubt just keeps trying to creep in, keeps trying to creep in. And I’m sure that happens to anybody with a hard job, or everybody in life it happens to, but you have to keep pushing through. And that’s all I do.
“Believe in my preparation, believe in the people I’ve surrounded myself with. This is crazy, man. I’m shaking. It’s really hard to control this right now.”
“When the time comes, it’s kill or be killed,” Gaethje said. “That means you or me. I don’t care who it is. It could be you (Felder), it could be Nate (Diaz), it could be Donald (Cerrone), it could be Khabib (Nurmagomedov). I don’t care. I’m on my way to Khabib and I want to fight him. I think I’m the toughest matchup for him.”
There’s certainly no question that MMA is an unforgiving sport. Further, Gaethje has certainly done his part to remain in the title shot mix, after incurring his aforementioned losses to Alvarez and Poirier.
And in terms of him being the toughest match-up for Khabib? It’s an interesting question.
Gaethje would certainly be one of the most accomplished wrestlers Nurmagomedov has faced to date. So, it would be fascinating to see whether Khabib could put his top game to work. The rugged fighter could have a point.
If the champ countered Gaethje’s pressure with well-timed takedowns, however, would the latter be in trouble? Would Tony Ferguson pose a bigger threat working from below? It’s pretty likely.
At the end of the day, however, Gaethje is likely a win or two away before he gets tapped for a title shot.