Khabib Nurmagamedov v Justin Gaethje is one week away. One of the most exciting match-ups of the year, nobody can wait for this fight in Abu Dhabi. After beating Tony Ferguson in style, Gaethje won the interim lightweight title. Now he wants to be the first man to inflict defeat on the 28-0 Khabib.
However, he has his work cut out for him. Khabib is relentless in the cage. His wrestling is superb but also his ability to shut down strikers is unique. Furthermore, he has avoided severe damage despite the amount of cage time has had.
Now Khabib wants to cement his status as one of the greatest of all-time. He believes that victory over Gaethje will bring him one step closer to this mark. Furthermore, George St-Pierre is interested in being the Russian’s final opponent.
In sum, legacy is Khabib’s main motivation right now. He wants to fight Justin Gaethje because he is a worthy opponent who improves the Russian’s status. After two successful title defenses, Khabib wants to edge closer to the 30-0 mark. This is unheard of in professional MMA where everybody can beat everybody.
“Honestly, I don’t know,” Nurmagomedov told Yahoo’s Kevin Iole. “30-0 is going to be great. It’s looking good, it sounds good. 30-0, okay. It’s going to be a great record, this is like Mayweather in MMA. We’ll see, I’m very close to it. Who knows? Okay, I finish Justin Gaethje, I finish one more guy, I dominate him — I think my name is going to be always in history.
I think already my name is going to be in history because two years ago what happened [vs. McGregor] is never going to be forgotten. Even after 50 years, people are going to watch this fight and be impressed. This is like when Muhammad Ali fought Frazier in Manila. People never forget this fight. I’m already in history but I need legacy. For legacy, Justin Gaethje is a great opponent right now.”
Furthermore, if Khabib beats Gaethje the conversation will turn to who he should fight next. While Conor McGregor makes sense from a financial perspective, Khabib is already a rich man. The drama of their last fight is also negative. But Khabib’s dream opponent is tempted to return. So says Firas Zahabi who believes George St-Pierre will fight if Khabib wins impressively.
“Georges vs. Khabib, I think, is the only fight Georges will come back for, to be honest with you,” Zahabi told Sherdog. ‘I think it’s the only one, if Khabib… and I think we’re all expecting him to win his next fight. If he does it in decisive fashion, I think it will greatly increase the odds that he fights Georges in the future.
“If he loses, there would be no possibility, I think, in Georges’ mind. But if he has a great performance – which I think he will – I think that ups the chances greatly. Let’s just say that.”
According to Zahabi, Khabib’s performance against Gaethje will determine whether or not GSP returns. The Russian is the only interesting opponent for the former welterweight champion. St-Pierre’s last fight was against Michael Bisping. Then, he won the middleweight championship after four years out.
“I would say 50 percent chance,” Zahabi said. “If he has an amazing performance against Gaethje, a stellar performance, I think it will be a 50 percent chance that it entices Georges to come back for one more fight.”
This would be huge.