While he respects his opponent, Khabib Nurmagomedov will not contain the beast inside when he faces off against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in October.
Khabib (28-0), the UFC Lightweight Champion, ended up commenting on an Instagram video Joe Rogan posted of Gaethje (22-2) working out. With head trainer Trevor Wittman, Rogan called Gaethje a “savage” while he was sparring. As a response, Khabib stated:
“Justin is a very nice guy and good opponent for me but when octagon close he have to be ready not only boxing match, I’m not Dustin (Poirier) or Tony (Ferguson). I will take him to the deepest ocean and drown him.”
This is a rare moment in which Nurmagomedov has expressed his emotions like this before a fight. One of the only times a message like this was sent was during the buildup to the fight against Conor McGregor.
Khabib is considered one of the top fighters in MMA today. Fighting in Russia and Ukraine to start his career, Khabib made his UFC debut in 2012. In his fourth fight, he set the record for most takedowns in a single fight with 21. Dealing with injuries that delayed his progress, Khabib would end up dominating the competition when healthy.
The 31-year-old won the UFC Lightweight Title against Al Iaquinta at UFC 223 in 2018 after Tony Ferguson backed out. He then defended the belt against McGregor, submitting him at UFC 229. “The Eagle’s” last fight was at UFC 242 in September, beating Dustin Poirier to unify the UFC Lightweight Title.
Meant to defend his title against Ferguson at UFC 249, Khabib backed out to quarantine in Russia as a result of COVID-19. He ended up losing his father Abdulmanap due to complications regarding COVID-19. it was a major blow for Khabib, who had his father by his side during major fights of his over the last few years. Daniel Cormier, who is a teammate of his at American Kickboxing Academy, told ESPN while he is surprised Khabib will be fighting, he understands why.
“Yeah, I thought he would be a little bit longer, but the reality is we find motivation in different ways,” Cormier stated. “He wants to honor his father through performance. It’s a big thing. I’m happy for him.”
Gaethje (22-2) beat Ferguson at UFC 249 to win the interim UFC Lightweight Title. Landing over 100 significant strikes, “The Highlight’s” left hook was able to badly bruise the face of Ferguson. The referee called the fight off in the fifth round, awarding Gaethje the win. It was his fourth win in a row, and he is now 5-2 in the UFC.
As of now, the UFC will host UFC 254 in either Las Vegas or “Fight Island” in Abu Dhabi.