Justin Gaethje has kept his most important weapon hidden ahead of his UFC 254 fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov, according to his head coach Trevor Wittman.
Gaethje will challenge Nurmagomedov, who has never been beaten in 28 pro fights, for the undisputed UFC lightweight title in the main event of UFC 254 this Saturday. While nobody has been able to topple Nurmagomedov thus far, many members of the MMA community believe Gaethje has the skills to pull it off.
Over the course of his MMA career, Gaethje has flaunted the kind of power could easily spell trouble for Nurmagomedov this Saturday. He’s also got the kind of wrestling background that could help him negate the champ’s best skills, but we haven’t really seen those wrestling skills in action.
Wittman, a man widely credited in helping Gaethje evolve into one of the best fighters in the world, says that is by design.
“I tailor my game plans throughout a career for a championship fight,” Wittman explained on Thursday during UFC 254 media day. “We work on fundamentals from the beginning. One thing that I think that we were able to do very well was keep our most important weapon hidden and with Justin Gaethje, he’s a extremely good wrestler and he’s got a very unique style in wrestling.
“He hasn’t had to use it. Again, it’s very hard to go and game plan against someone’s wrestling when they haven’t showed it.”
Justin Gaethje was an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler at the University of Northern Colorado in his junior year, but throughout his MMA career, has pulled off his biggest wins—including triumphs over Michael Johnson, Edson Barboza, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Tony Ferguson—with his striking.
Wittman believes Gaethje will be able to lean on his wrestling to survive any grappling exchanges with Khabib, but it doesn’t sound like he will be instigating any grappling with the champ either.
“I feel good about [Justin’s wrestling] but Khabib is the best at what he does,” Wittman said. “It’s not like I’m going ‘we’re going to go out there and out wrestle him.’ Again, that’s just a little bonus of what we have. It’s an opportunity to go out there and face the best and I do believe Khabib, I believe he’s the best pound-for-pound [fighter]. I’ve thought that for a long period of time. I mean there’s other fighters that put on exciting fights and you can consider them best pound-for-pound and who they’ve faced and things like that.
“But it’s patterns. Who’s the most consistent? When it comes to being consistent, that’s the key to being great. It’s consistency. Khabib is that.”