Gaethje is expecting a future shot at that lightweight gold, but don’t expect to see Gaethje get dominated in a wrestling game by Nurmagomedov.
“Who knows, man. My wrestling coach is Ben Cherrington, 2006 national champion from Boise State, NCAA,” Gaethje said on The MMA Hour. “So I work with him twice a week, and if I was to get that fight, my training camp would be based around being in shape. I’m not saying I could beat him in a wrestling match, but a wrestling match is what I did my whole life. He’s not going to go out there and dominate me in a wrestling match. What it comes down to is my cardio being up to par with his, and the ability for me to grapple in as many situations and get into as many scrambles as he’s able to get into, because that’s where he breaks people. He gets you in the scrambles and you get tired. That is some tiring stuff. That’s why I avoid it, because I don’t want to get tired — I want to try to knock him out. You can’t pin people in a fight and I’m trying to get out of there as soon as possible. So yeah, that would be my focus. I would and will focus on that when I fight Khabib. I’m starting to do it now, so that when I do get that fight, I can wrestle for 25 minutes if I need to.”
Nurmagomedov is known for his dominant wrestling game inside if the Octagon, including a dominant win over former two division UFC champion Conor McGregor at UFC 229.
The lightweight contender believes his ability to create scrambles is going to be an advantage in a potential title bout.
“My ability to scramble, create scrambles,” says Gaethje. “We’re sweating more [in MMA], I’m more slippery than people wearing singlets and wrestling in college or any wrestling match. So all those factors come into play when it comes to that grappling. And yeah, I’m not going to go in there to wrestle with him. I’m going in there to stop takedowns, and that’s what I’ve been good at this whole time. And in the clinch, I throw hard shots. So you can’t fail or prosper without going out there and taking that chance, so I’ve gotta put myself in a position [to get the fight], and I think as opposed to anybody else at the top of this division, I would be the toughest out for him. No doubt. And it’s a challenge that I’m looking forward to.”
It could be some time before that potential shot goes to Gaethje, as Nurmagomedov is expected to face UFC Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier next.