Justin Gaethje: “I don’t think I would have taken the fight against Khabib on short notice”

Justin Gaethje
Image: @UFC on Instagram

Justin Gaethje is days out from a short-notice interim lightweight title fight with Tony Ferguson, but he says he might not have accepted a short-notice fight with Ferguson’s originally scheduled foe, undisputed lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Ferguson was originally expected to fight Nurmagomedov on April 18, but when Nurmagomedov got stranded in Russia, Ferguson was booked for a short-notice fight with Gaethje. The April 18 card was subsequently canceled, and Ferguson and Gaethje were rebooked for a fight on May 9.

While Gaethje is willing to tangle with Ferguson on short notice, he admits he would have been reluctant to step in against Nurmagomedov without a full training camp. He feels a fight with the champ simply requires a different kind of preparation.

“I don’t think I would have taken the fight against Khabib on short notice,” Gaethje told BT Sport recently (transcript via MMA Junkie).

“Matchup-wise, I think I have a much better chance of touching Tony’s chin than Khabib’s, in the first two, three rounds,” Gaethje continued. “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.

“No matter what, this is not perfect circumstances, but a fight is a fight. When it was on 14-day’s notice, that was much different than now, or 20-day’s 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.”

Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson’s fight will headline the revamped UFC 249 card, which will go down in Jacksonville, Florida on May. Do you think Gaethje will pull off the short-notice win?

This article first appeared on BJPENN.com on 5/4/2020.