According to Dariush, his relationship with Gaethje and his head coach Trevor Wittman goes beyond the fighters sharing the same manager in Ali Abdelaziz. In fact, Dariush says that Gaethje asking him to come join his training camp was a welcome opportunity to pay back a similar favor the former World Series of Fighting Champion did for him a few years ago.
“The reason why we actually connected, back in 2018 I fought Thiago Moises and I fought in Denver,” Dariush explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “Due to the elevation, I had to get there early and Justin actually called me up and opened up his doors for us. We were able to train at his gym and he actually trained with me to help me prepare for the fight.
“So before I left, I told Justin’s coach Trevor [Wittman], if you ever need me, I’m available. They ended up reaching out when they needed me for this fight.”
Gaethje accepted the fight with Ferguson on short notice, although he ultimately got a couple extra weeks of training under his belt after UFC 249 was pushed back from April 18 to May 9.
It’s still not the perfect situation for a title fight and that’s why Dariush and UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman joined Gaethje’s camp to ensure he had the best training possible to get ready for Ferguson.
With Dariush on board, Gaethje found a training partner with a similar body type as Ferguson not to mention the kind of high-level submission grappling he’ll face this Saturday night. Ferguson is well known for his D’arce choke not to mention the ability to scramble out of almost any situation on the ground.
In that regard, Dariush was the perfect body double to come after Gaethje with the same kinds of attacks he might see from Ferguson.
“That was part of it for sure,” Dariush said about his ability to mimic Ferguson ahead of UFC 249. “That was one part of it and the other part was pace. With Kamaru and myself, the goal was pace, to bring a high pace. Think of it like this, when we would spar, I would take rounds off and Kamaru would go in. I would go for round 1 and Kamaru for round 2 or vice versa.
“Justin was just in there for five rounds and it was incredible to watch him do that. I would bring in the awkwardness where I would try a lot of jiu-jitsu and Kamaru would put on a really high pace. I would try to do funky punches and just try to emulate Tony, which I know is not an easy thing to do. He’s a very special guy but in terms of pace and in terms of technique, we brought a very high level and Justin was able to deal with it no problem.”
The five-round sparring sessions helped push Gaethje’s conditioning as he prepares to face Ferguson, who is defined by his ability to push the pace from the first second of the fight until the last.
While Dariush is confident that Gaethje is ready to go for 25 minutes, he just doesn’t see how Ferguson survives that long with the hard-hitting lightweight, who has managed to rack up seven post fight bonuses with only six fights on his UFC resume.
“I’m envisioning a knockout,” Dariush said. “Just training with him, knowing his power, the way he moves his feet, I think he’s going to knock Tony out or Tony’s going to understand there’s a line in the sand and he cannot cross that line and he’s going to try to fight on the outside.
“That’s not the guy Tony is. Tony’s the kind of guy where he will go past that line and that’s why I think there’s going to be a knockout and Justin’s going to be the one to do it.”