Justin Gaethje

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 07: Justin Gaethje celebrates after defeating Michael Johnson in their lightweight bout during The Ultimate Fighter Finale at T-Mobile Arena on July 7, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Justin Gaethje wouldn’t have accepted a Khabib fight on short notice

Justin Gaethje understands exactly what he’s going up against this Saturday at UFC 249. A short notice fight against Tony Ferguson, a former interim lightweight champion who is currently on 12 fight winning streak.

Originally, Ferguson was scheduled to fight lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, but Nurmagomedov was forced to withdraw due to the travel ban in Russia.

With Nurmagomedov out of the fight, Gaethje now has a shot at the interim title when he squares off against Ferguson this Saturday at UFC 249. Surprisingly if the situation was reserved and Nurmagomedov needed another opponent, Gaethje may not have stepped up.

“I don’t think I would have taken the fight against Khabib on short notice,” Gathje admitted to BT Sport.

Gaethje believes you need more than a few weeks to train for Nurmagomedov’s heavy wrestling approach.

“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 explained. “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.”

Originally UFC 249 was scheduled for April 18, but the card was pushed back to May 9 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gaethje feels more confident in getting the win now that he’s had a few extra weeks to prepare for Ferguson.

“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.”

The Ferguson-Gaethje fight will serve as the main event this weekend. The winner will fight Nurmagomedov for the undisputed title in the fall.

UFC 249 will take place at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. with no fans in attendance. The main card will stream on pay-per-view, while the prelims will air on ESPN.

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John Eric Poli