Justin Gaethje, an NCAA Division I wrestler, may finally shoot the first elusive takedown of his UFC career at UFC 286. Gaethje has a borderline obsession with powerful, technical brawling, but he finds himself opposite a decorated striker in Rafael Fiziev in Saturday’s co-main event. Fiziev’s weapons may be enough to spur the mythical Gaethje takedown at the O2 Arena in London.
Gaethje has completed 10 UFC fights without once attempting a takedown. It’s a bold strategy that has left him with a 6-4 record against some of the best fighters in the world, but it’s also earned him an average of one post-fight bonus per fight and two CBS Sports Fight of the Year honors. Gaethje was asked what the likelihood was that he would shoot for a takedown on a scale of one to 10 against Fiziev. Gaethje said “six” and noted it was “probably” higher than he would have given past fights.
“I think it’s always something that you should make them think about,” Gaethje told CBS Sports. “So I’ll ponder that.
“It’s always a risk assessment, obviously. Up until I got TKOed by Eddie Alvarez, and the same with [Dustin] Poirier, I thought I was being more successful in that area. So I didn’t necessarily find it necessary to take that take shot. Against Khabib [Nurmagomedov] and [Charles] Oliveira, I didn’t want to take it to the ground because they’ve been doing jiu-jitsu their whole life and I’m a wrestler.”
Check out the full interview with Justin Gaethje below.
Gaethje is usually the marauder in a fight. It’s a bloodthirsty, almost ominous presence that few foes can match. Fiziev is the rare fighter who can rival Gaethje’s pre-fight appetite for violence.
“I can’t wait to go and see him in the cage, smell blood, smell his heart, and eat his heart after,” Fiziev said in episode one of the “UFC 286 Embedded” video blog series.
Gaethje dismissed Fiziev’s tone, accusing the younger fighter of posturing to draw attention.
“To the person that’s never done this, it sounds crazy but we’ve all been there,” Gaethje said. “I was just as willing to say outlandish things when I was in his position trying to get the fights that we need, trying to get the attention that he’s trying to get through fighting me, trying to pump myself up for the fights that you have to pump yourself up for, for a fight like this. I think the language barrier is a factor in that quote, but it’s just as intense as it is.”
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