Justin Gaethje has vowed to create a “zone of death” for Khabib Nurmagomedov in the pair’s UFC lightweight title fight in October, claiming that the Russian’s biggest weakness is that he believes he is “infallible.”
Interim lightweight champion Gaethje and unbeaten title-holder Khabib meet at UFC 254 on October 24 at an as-yet unannounced location, which is widely expected to be ‘Fight Island’ in Abu Dhabi.
Khabib recently fired an ominous warning to Gaethje, saying he would “take him to the deepest ocean and drown him” when they clash.
But the American – who set up his shot at Khabib by dismantling Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in May – has now laid out his own plans for the Russian, vowing he would counter his oppressive grappling game and “create carnage.”
“We’re not wrestling anymore. There’s going to be a zone in front of me, it’s not very big. It’s going to be a zone of death, and I have to represent death every time he enters this zone,” Gaethje told Michael Bisping on his Believe You Me podcast.
“That’s what I’m the best at, creating carnage, creating car crashes. My goal when I step in there is to create as many car crashes as possible.
“Whether it’s our bodies hitting, our heads hitting, our f*cking shoulders hitting, my fist hitting his head, his fist hitting my head – it doesn’t matter, I need to create car crashes because it’s the only way to beat this guy.”
Gaethje enters the contest on a four-fight hot streak, with his demolition of Ferguson being the only one of those contests to go beyond the first round.
‘The Highlight’ said that the notoriously dominant Khabib has never faced the kind of threat that he poses with his concussive striking skills – promising that it would be a “battle for the ages.”
“I’ve never not come out of the cage without my opponent being absolutely broken from physical damage,” said Gaethje.
“[Khabib’s] never walked out with a lot of physical damage, so we’re going to see who can impose their will and only one of us will. I do think it’s going to be a battle for the ages.”
Khabib revealed on Tuesday that four members of his team are expected to be on the card at UFC 254, including cousins Umar and Abubakar Nurmagomedov and close training partner Islam Makhachev.
Gaethje claimed that the adulation ‘The Eagle’ enjoys in his Dagestani homeland and beyond merely creates a culture which burnishes his ego, and would actually prove to be his undoing.
“I think his biggest weakness is I believe that he thinks he’s infallible,” said Gaethje, whose record stands at 22-2.
“I think if you told him that or brought it to his attention, I believe that he would be very good at explaining to you how he does not believe that, but I believe that he surrounds himself with people who stroke his ego.”
“I believe that culture, this is what I’m counting on anyway, they can stroke your ego. I’ve seen it over there, I’ve seen fighters who really just surround themselves with a posse that pumps them up and jacks them up.”
Far from shying away from Gaethje’s war cry, Khabib seemed to welcome the comments.
“Class, I like how he talks and his confidence, so this fight promises to be the best fight this year. I have something to show the world,” wrote the 155lbs champ on Instagram.
Khabib is ramping up his preparations for the showdown with his American rival, which will be the first time ‘The Eagle’ has stepped into the octagon since he defended his title against Dustin Poirier in Abu Dhabi last September.
It will also be the Dagestani star’s first bout since the death of his father and trainer Abdulmanap at the start of July from complications stemming from a coronavirus infection.