01 Jan Justin Gaethje invites Tony Ferguson to break his nose, calls UFC 249 matchup ‘a recipe for disaster’
Justin Gaethje knows he’s not walking away unscathed as he prepares to fight Tony Ferguson for an interim lightweight title in the main event of UFC 249 on Saturday night.
In fact, the seven-time post-fight bonus winner is actually inviting the kind of violence most fighters try to avoid. And he has a tongue-in-cheek reason for welcoming the ensuing damage.
“I need my nose broken,” Gaethje said rather candidly when speaking during Tuesday’s UFC 249 media conference call. “I haven’t been able to breathe through my nose for like 12 years since wrestling. So hopefully one of them elbows cracks my nose. The UFC’s got to pay for that sh*t. It’s an exciting ass fight.”
That kind of attitude is one of the reasons why Gaethje was selected to replace current lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov after he was forced off the card due to travel restrictions in place due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Not only is Gaethje considered a top-ranked contender, but he puts on the kind of action-packed fights that typically leave fans with their jaws hitting the floor before a single round has expired.
During his 12-fight win streak, Ferguson has built a similar reputation while leaving a bloody trail of victims in his wake as he rampaged through the lightweight division. Even the opponents who managed to find some success against Ferguson ultimately left with a loss on their record and usually a few stitches in their faces when it was over.
That is exactly the kind of style that Gaethje admires, which is why he called out Ferguson not that long ago and now he finally gets his wish.
“After I think it was my [James] Vick win, I said I wanted to fight Tony because I know we’re both some very f*cking special people when it comes to being able to be comfortable when adrenaline is coursing through your veins,” Gaethje explained. “It’s not something that is natural. That’s something that has been learned. Been worked on. That feeling when it’s going through my veins, it’s the best drug on Earth. I’m telling you right now.
“The feeling of being in a life or death situation and being able to be comfortable, there’s nothing like it. I know that he is the same way. One of us is probably going to get two bonuses, we’re both getting one bonus and I fight for money. At the time when I said that, I was shooting to be the most exciting fighter in the world. Tony is the best opponent to bring that out of me.”
The unpredictability that Ferguson brings into the octagon every time he fights is one of the reasons he’s been so successful with an undefeated run that dates back almost seven years.
It’s impossible to pigeonhole him as a striker or grappler because Ferguson varies his attacks so much, there’s no way to define his particular style. It’s a daunting task to prepare for Ferguson but Gaethje welcomes the chance to try and figure out that puzzle come Saturday night.
“I’m looking forward to the storm,” Gaethje said. “I know that for one, we get to put paychecks in our own pockets. We get to put a paycheck in every UFC employee’s pocket that’s going to work this event. We get to inspire people to not give up right now.
“For me, before I was fighting and after I’m fighting, [Ferguson is] the epitome of an athlete — the UFC athlete. He loves violence. He loves carnage. This is a recipe for disaster and I think we both want to be on that card.”
While Gaethje and Ferguson made it clear neither of them aim to actually cause real harm to the other that could result in a serious injury, both acknowledge that this is the kind of fight where they are likely to leave the cage with a few new scars.
“A fight is a fight and people love violence,” Gaethje said. “That’s what we do best.”