Justin Gaethje talks Khabib Nurmagomedov and damage

Justin Gaethje has a history of fighting as if his priority is exchanging damage until the other man falls. From some perspectives, it’s a wise choice. Fans flock to it. And judges have endless methodologies to determine the winner, but in the absence of a finish, it comes down to who hurt who more.

Gaethje fought Michael Johnson in his league debut, and was staggered some, before earning a win. He then lost the next two, the first defeats of his career, to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, both inside the distance. While Gaethje went 1-2 in his year in the UFC, the fans won – the three fights earned Gaethje four performance bonuses. And Justin Gaethje ultimately won, as the losses were lessons – he became just one degree less willing to trade.

“The Highlight” is still arguably unequaled in the highlight department. His next four fights were all wins, all inside the distance, winning five performance bonuses, which brought his seven-fight UFC career total to nine. And now Gaehtje is the UFC interim lightweight champion, heading into a unification fight vs. division champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 next Saturday.

The fighter spoke recently with Luke Thomas and Brian Campbell on Morning Kombat and analyzed “The Eagle.” What he sees is someone unwilling to take damage. Of course, Gaethje probably sees the same thing in the Jake LaMotta character in Raging Bull.

“I create damage,” said Gaethje. “If I barely miss and barely clip, it’s still damage, damage that’s done. In a 25-minute fight, I will create damage one way or another. The thing about Tony [Ferguson] is that Tony loves that. One sure thing about Khabib is that he does not love that.

“His main priority is to not take damage, so he can live a quality life and that’s admirable. But when I hurt you, where does your mind go when your first thought is, ‘Don’t get hurt?’ I don’t know, I’m excited to see his reaction to that.”

“I’m talking damage of nerves, of bone touching bone. When one person’s bone touches another person’s bone something has to give there. It’s physics. It’s as true as true can be. I think he’s been cracked. I think he’s been clipped, but I don’t think he’s taken sustainable damage like leg kicks, body shots, and things like that. I don’t think nobody has been able to do that.”

“Obviously [the fight] is huge, but internally you have to stay leveled, you have to stay grounded. I can’t make it this huge event because it’s 25 minutes of time and you have to be perfect in that time. That’s all I’m preparing for.”

h/t Danny Segura for MMA Junkie

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