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Justin Gaethje’s UFC 254 prediction? ‘The way I’m going to beat Khabib is by putting him to sleep’

There’s no quit in Justin Gaethje or Khabib Nurmagomedov, so Gaethje believes his best shot of winning at UFC 254 is to knockout Khabib cold.

Justin Gaethje steps into the Octagon this weekend (Sat., Oct. 24, 2020) at UFC 254 with a goal of doing what no other fighter before him has done: defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov.

The key to winning against the Dagestani Lightweight champion? In Gaethje’s eyes, it’s his lifetime of wrestling experience. This goes beyond the skill to stay upright against Nurmagomedov, but into the headspace needed to survive Khabib’s endless grappling onslaught.

In an interview with ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” Gaethje explained how his time on the mats helps him.

“I’ve wrestled my entire life, and every time you step in there, wrestling is not dangerous but they’re still trying to take everything from you,” he said. “It’s mano a mano. Every time I stepped out onto that mat it was mano a mano and I’ve been in that situation so many times and I’ve found it feels good to break people. Feels good to make people quit on themselves. Not in life, but in a competition setting it’s the best feeling there is.”

“What wrestling brings you is a mindset: to never quit ... ever,” Gaethje continued. “Ever. Don’t ever quit on yourself. If you quit, you’re quitting on yourself, and I refuse to allow that. If he gets his way it’s gonna be hell and it’s gonna suck and you might see that look on my face but it won’t be the look of wanting to quit, it’ll just be the look of frustration if anything.”

“But I’ve been working very hard to prevent that from happening. I’ve worked my whole life as a matter of fact. He hasn’t fought someone who has wrestled their whole lives. That’s worked as hard or as long as he has. We’re the same age. I started at four years old. There’s no way he’s been doing this or preparing for this longer than me.”

Gaethje made it clear though that he didn’t expect to be able to break Khabib like he’s broken others, on the mat or on the feet. It’ll take a straight knockout to put away Khabib.

“The way I’m going to beat him is by putting him to sleep,” Gaethje predicted. “Taking his body and taking consciousness away from his body. That’s how I win this fight. Neither one of us is going to quit, neither one of us will give up. Again, we’ve both been training our whole lives. We both will give our lives for this opportunity. As shallow as that might sound, we live for something, and for this. And we’ve been preparing our whole lives for this. It’s who we are, it’s what we do, and it’s going to be a great fight. And I’ll be damned, I ain’t going out like no punk.”

As much as Gaethje clearly respects Khabib as an opponent and competitor, though, it didn’t sound like he was ready to sign off on Nurmagomedov as a G.O.A.T. — or even contender — for greatest Lightweight ever.

“He won his belt from Al Iaquinta, that wasn’t even a real title fight so that doesn’t count,” he said. “And he beat Dustin Poirier and he beat Conor McGregor. So that’s two shots. It’s going to be hard for him to pass anybody in that regard because he only fights once a year, if that.

“So he’s going to be remembered as one of the greatest of all time because of how he beats people,” Gathje continued. “When you say this guy fought 28 times and only lost one round, that’s special. That’s something we’ll talk about forever. He won’t have a normal legacy persay, he’s kind of creating a different one. A different path for other people.”

That’s not the legacy he’s interested in, should he beat Khabib at UFC 254.

“There isn’t a person that has gained this belt and defended it numerous times,” Gaethje concluded. “That will be the goal.”

Remember, will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 254 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN 2/ESPN+ at 12 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 254: “Khabib vs. Gaethje” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.

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