Khabib Nurmagomedov gears up for UFC 254, lauds Adesanya and Chimaev

The last instance Khabib Nurmagomedov defended his title, he had romped home with a comfortable win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in September 2019.

After more than a year, Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will return to the Octagon in three weeks during the main event of UFC 254 at the Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

He will face interim title-holder Justin Gaethje, who overcame Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, in the UAE. The last instance Khabib defended his title, he had romped home with a comfortable submission (rear-naked choke) win over Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 in September 2019.

But things are different for the unbeaten Russian superstar (28-0) this time around. He won't be having his father and trainer -- Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, who passed away after contracting the coronavirus -- by his side. However, the champ is confident that he'll do his father proud by defeating Gaethje.

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"Justin's a warrior but my fighting IQ is greater than his. He has a coach (Trevor Wittman) who gives him good advice, and that was evident during his fight against Tony," Khabib told reporters during a virtual media conference.

"I'm going to wrestle him. If he tries to defend one takedown, I'll go for two, three, or a hundred. The main event will be a mix of wrestling and kickboxing. I plan to make him tired and go for the finish."

Gaethje, who was a wrestler until the collegiate level, is now known for his hard-hitting style, which was on full display against Ferguson five months ago. Khabib, with a more wrestling-oriented approach, feels he has the advantage when it comes to grappling.

"With Tony, it was only striking but with me, he has to worry about grappling. MMA is not only a striking game. Wrestling and top control made me a champion. He has to be ready for that. He'd try to kill my legs with kicks while maintaining distance and avoiding the cage. But I'm ready for everything," he added.

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Khabib went on to praise Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya, who had successfully defended his title against Paulo Costa at UFC 253 last month in stunning fashion. 

"I think Adesanya is already a superstar. He's undefeated, 20-0, and he's beaten a lot of tough guys -- (Kelvin) Gastelum, (Robert) Whittaker and Costa. He defended his title twice. So, he's a top guy," said Khabib.

He also claimed that he was impressed with another middleweight -- Khamzat Chimaev, who has finished all nine of his career bouts and is one of the most promising talents in the UFC currently.

"My opinion is that Khamzat Chimaev deserves a top-10 opponent, but I don't know what UFC is going to do with him. He needs to fight with a tough opponent for five rounds." Khabib, whose manager Ali Abdelaziz works with Chimaev as well, added that the 26-year-old star might headline a UFC event in December.

"Khamzat finished all his opponents. Ali told me he's going to be part of a December main event and if he wins that he should be in a contenders' fight," added Khabib.

The Lightweight sensation isn't looking too much into his UFC future after the Gaethje encounter. However, the promotion's president Dana White has promised special things for Khabib.

"I'm not thinking about it right now. I've told him that we'll talk after this fight is over. I'm not at UFC for money. I love to compete with the best fighters in the world."

Watch UFC 254 featuring a Lightweight Title bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje, LIVE and Exclusive on SONY TEN 2 and SONY TEN 3 (Hindi) channels on 24th October 2020, from 11:30 PM (IST).

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