UFC 254 is this weekend and for the first time ever, Khabib Nurmagomedov will headline the card against Justin Gaethje for the UFC lightweight championship.
An undefeated 28-0 record, Khabib is arguably the most dominant fighter in UFC history. When he comes up against Gaethje though, it will be the toughest test of his entire MMA career. A man who lives for controlled chaos, Gaethje is an elite wrestler with some of the heaviest hands in the sport.
With 19 knockouts from 22 career wins, Gaethje revealed in a recent promo interview with BT Sport that the reason he doesn’t use his wrestling in fights is simply because it’s quicker to win by knockout.
Despite being the favourite for the fight, Khabib Nurmagomedov is usually one of the fighters who controls the narrative through actions rather than words. He is almost always respectful to his opponent and does his talking in the cage. This time around has been slightly different though.
Since the passing of his father Abdulmanap back in July, there has been a lot of talk about retirement from the Nurmagomedov camp. Revelations have come out that Khabib’s father had wanted him to retire once he hit 30-0, while others say Khabib has been planning for a potential fight with Georges St-Pierre more than ever since his father’s untimely demise.
During the fight week this week, Khabib has been quoted once again talking about a potential bout with GSP.
“If you want to fight, he has to come and make 155lbs. I am ready for him. After this fight [with Gaethje] it’s going to be a great fight with GSP. Fans, they’re going to watch this fight. UFC loves this fight. I really want to fight and it’s going to be the biggest fight in UFC history.“Khabib Nurmagomedov talking to Adam Catterall for BT Sport
On this occasion, I believe it’s Khabib who is being the disrespectful fighter. He’s overlooking a motivated and healthy Justin Gaethje who is quite comfortably the biggest threat to the title he’s ever faced.
Gaethje has consistently referred to Khabib as the best in the world and the number 1 lightweight, with all predictions for the fight coming across as competitive and confidence rather than disrespect. Khabib has matched those comments, talking about ‘drowning him in deep water’ with his wrestling but the talk about his next fight before this one has even happened just seems disrespectful.
With Khabib seemingly overlooking the threat Justin Gaethje poses to his title reign, the chance that we see a new champion has grown in my eyes ahead of this fight. Khabib needs to focus, ignore the talk around a potential super-fight with Georges St-Pierre and make sure he does his job in Abu Dhabi this Saturday night.