Justin Gaethje recognizes thinks Khabib Nurmagomedov will have to get inside to take him down – a distance he’s calling a “zone of death.”
Gaethje is sure he can create “car crashes,” he’ll be able to fend off Nurmagomedov’s grappling attack.
“I was a Division-I All-American,” Gaethje said on a recent episode of Michael Bisping’s “Believe You Me” podcast. “Again, I’ve wrestled some of the toughest guys in their prime. Division-I college wrestling in America is the highest level other than going to the Olympics and wrestling on the international level. But 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 if I have to represent death every time he enters the zone, that’s what I’m the best (at) – creating carnage, creating car crashes. So my only goal when I step in there is to create as many car crashes as possible, whether it be our bodies hitting, our heads hitting, our (expletive) shoulders hitting, our fists hitting, my fist hitting his head, his fist hitting my head, it doesn’t matter. I need to create car crashes, because that’s the only way to beat this guy.”
Despite his confidence, Gaethje said it’s no secret that he’s been drilling his takedown defense throughout camp.
“I’m obviously focusing on (takedown defense). Ryan Deakin – I don’t know if you know who Ryan Deakin is,” Gaethje said. “He’s the No. 1 in the nation at 157. He was undefeated all year and didn’t get taken down. He wrestled for Northwestern. He’s 23 years old, and he literally makes me feel like a little (expletive) every Wednesday.”
“I can’t tell you how demeaning it is to take the ass whooping I take from these kids. One is 23. One is like 21, but they’re really top 5 in the nation in NCAA Division-I wrestling and beat my ass every Wednesday. Outside of that, my camp is not changing. Nothing will change. I’ve never not focused on wrestling. Yeah, I’m working on what I need to work on.”
Like many outside observers, Gaethje is intrigued by the matchup against Nurmagomedov.
“I have never not come out of the cage with my opponent not being broken from physical damage,” Gaethje said. “He’s never not walked out with a lot of physical damage, so we’re going to see who’s going to impose their will. It’ll be interesting. I do think it’ll be a battle for the ages.”