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Morning Report: Justin Gaethje explains why he wouldn’t have taken short-notice fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov

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Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For years, Justin Gaethje has been adamant that he would not accept short-notice fights because he wanted to perform at his absolute best every time he set foot in the cage. But this weekend, Gaethje is going to break that rule when he faces Tony Ferguson for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. Previously, Gaethje admitted that his willingness to accept a short-notice fight hinged largely on the fact that an interim title is a rare opportunity in MMA and one he could not pass up, but now, Gaethje also admits that the opponent had something to do with his decision as well.

“I don’t think I would have taken the fight against (undisputed lightweight champion) Khabib (Nurmagomedov) on short notice,” Gaethje told BT Sport recently. “Matchup-wise, I think I have a much better chance of touching Tony’s chin than Khabib’s, in the first two, three rounds. In order to get taken down once or twice by Khabib, and work up, and still be able to fight, I really do need at least 10 weeks. You know I’ve been training my whole life but there’s certain lactic acid that builds up that you really have to account for.”

Gaethje originally accepted a fight with Ferguson on three weeks’ notice for April 18th. The UFC was then forced to postpone that event and now UFC 249 will take place this Saturday, meaning Gaethje has gotten another three weeks to prepare for a fight with Ferguson, which he admits is definitely better but still not ideal.

“No matter what, this is not perfect circumstances, but a fight is a fight,” Gaethje said. “When it was on 14 days’ notice, that was much different than now, or 20 days’ notice. Now I’ve had five weeks to train, it’s not what I’ve asked for, or wanted, but I do believe that before this I was in better shape. I didn’t let myself go. I was telling myself since the beginning of the year, I was gonna fight again and it was gonna be a big fight. So I was running and I was doing things I don’t normally do outside of camp.”

Of course, Ferguson was originally supposed to face Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 249, but the lightweight champion forced out of the bout due to travel restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 outbreak, marking the fifth time a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson has fallen through. Given the propensity for that fight to have calamity intervene, earlier this year, Gaethje did say he intended to stay in shape just in case, and it appears that was wise. Now, Gaethje will have an opportunity to end the Khabib-Ferguson fight saga once and for all, something he says he’ll be more than happy to do on Saturday.

“I did, I really did (want to see Khabib fight Tony),” Gaethje said. “But at the end of the day, I’ll be happy to ruin it for everybody.”

UFC 249 takes place this Saturday at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla.


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Thanks for reading, stay safe, and see y’all tomorrow.



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