Dana White: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje Could Happen on Fight Island

Against all odds, Justin Gaethje may finally get his title shot. That said, it took a wild series of events and a global pandemic for all the stars to line up for him. If things keep going well for Gaethje, then he may soon get to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov on the UFC’s Fight Island.

An island for the UFC’s international fights

Dana White sitting next to the ring at a UFC event
Dana White at UFC 249 | Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

As CBS Sports said, Fight Island is a private island that the UFC has “secured.” Its purpose is to allow fighters who can’t fly into the U.S. to fight in the UFC, since those fighters can probably travel to Fight Island.

Many of the UFC’s biggest stars, such as Nurmagomedov, live outside of the U.S., so this makes Fight Island the go-to place for fights involving international fighters.

CBS Sports reported that Dana White, the UFC’s president, thinks that a title fight between Gaethje and Nurmagomedov will “happen this summer.” The UFC expects to finish preparing Fight Island by June, so that’s the earliest that these two men can meet in the octagon. That said, there are potential hiccups along the way. 

For example, Nurmagomedov’s father is in serious condition after being put into a medically induced coma as well as testing positive for COVID-19 among other issues. The champ’s father is also his coach, so if things get worse for his father, then he may take a while to recover and deal with this loss. 

A look at Justin Gaethje and Khabib Nurmagomedov’s careers

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That said, if Nurmagomedov’s father recovers and Fight Island finishes its preparations without any trouble, then it’s very likely that Gaethje will fight Nurmagomedov on Fight Island. This would be a great fight, too, as some fans have speculated that Gaethje would be Nurmagomedov’s toughest fight. 

Nurmagomedov has been able to dominate his UFC opponents and achieve an undefeated 28-0 record thanks largely to his wrestling skills. As some of his former opponents may say, once he gets a hold of you, it’s hard for you to shake him off.

This wrestling style, however, is countered by someone who can wrestle as well. Gaethje is exactly that, and he’s arguably the most decorated wrestler that Nurmagomedov will face in the UFC.

However, while Gaethje may be a good wrestler, he doesn’t actually wrestle all that much. He’s a brawler, and he loves to just hit his opponents and get hit in return. Thanks to his skills, this usually allows him to win, but he also gets knocked out from time to time. Currently, he’s 22-2, and he’s beaten some of the UFC’s best fighters, including Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone.

Who would win between the two?

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Ultimately, it depends on how the wrestling goes. Gaethje was decorated wrestler in high school and college, but because he doesn’t use his wrestling often, it’s not clear how good of a wrestler he is when it comes to MMA.

Plus, he won’t be wrestling with the same kind of people that he wrestled with in high school and college. He’d be wrestling with one of the best MMA wrestlers in the world.

And, Nurmagomedov isn’t just a one-trick pony. He’s been improving his striking game, and he even put it to good use against one of the best strikers in the UFC, Conor McGregor. During their fight, the Russian champion managed to knock McGregor down onto the mat, something that no one in the UFC had ever done before. 

Additionally, while Gaethje is a heavy-hitter, Nurmagomedov has obviously never lost in the UFC before. He’s as tough as they come, so Gaethje might have a hard time knocking the champion out. It’s not impossible though, but the odds are currently in Nurmagomedov’s favor.