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UFC 249’s Justin Gaethje believes Ferguson puzzle harder to solve than Khabib

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Justin Gaethje will have a massive opportunity to shake up the UFC’s lightweight division later tonight (Sat., May 9, 2020) at UFC 249 live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) from inside VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla., when he takes on Tony Ferguson for the interim 155-pound title.

Gaethje, who is filling in for the absent Khabib Nurmagomedov, has only had about 4 weeks to prepare for “El Cucuy.” That doesn’t seem like nearly enough time to get ready for a veteran who has won 12 fights in a row, but Gaethje never seems to waver in these big moments.

“I’m going to get elbowed,” Gaethje told MMA Fighting earlier this week. “I’d be a fool to go in there and think I’m going to get out of there unscathed. Nine of 10 times, that’s not going to happen.

“We have seen him get hit, we’ve never seen him get finished. No one ever put Edson to sleep like he did it. I know how hard it’s going to be to find the shot, but it only takes one, and I possess the skills and the power to land it. Tony is a very unique fighter, and it’s going to take time and patience to figure out how to be successful.”

Despite his confidence, Gaethje understands the dangers that Ferguson presents inside of the cage. With striking, wrestling, grappling, conditioning, and a knack for finishing, “El Cucuy” is one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport today. To some, including Gaethje, Ferguson is even a more difficult puzzle to solve than divisional champion Nurmagomedov, who is currently undefeated in his professional career at 28-0.

“I think the puzzle is going to be harder,” Gaethje said of Ferguson. “There’s so many unknowns with Tony. You know what Khabib is going to do, and that’s going to be take you down, try to push you against the fence. And if not, he’s going to try and take shots from the space in the middle of the octagon.

“I believe that he can’t take me down in the middle of the octagon, and I can stay off the fence. So that puzzle is written. How do you beat Tony? I don’t know. I’m going to find out.”

Gaethje, 31, has already fought some of the best lightweights in the world since making his awaited UFC debut back in 2017, but this weekend is unlike anything “Highlight” has experienced before. Not only is Gaethje getting the chance to fight for a UFC title and potentially spoil another Khabib vs. Ferguson booking, but more importantly he’s helping restore some sense of normalcy to a struggling sports world.

“That’s all I dream about is the opportunity to prove I’m the best,” Gaethje said. “But yeah, they’ve got some very personal issues. I’ve got nothing to do with that. But we’re fighting for the right to represent the United States of America against Russia’s best. I believe it’s hard for the United States to get behind one fighter, because we’re such a melting pot and we’re from so many places. But I believe that I can possibly bring us together and go to war with the United States behind me, and that’s huge.”

MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card RIGHT HERE, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

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