Ferguson will fight Gaethje for the interim lightweight title on Saturday at the rearranged UFC 249 in Florida, which was originally scheduled to pit him against Nurmagomedov before issues relating to the Covid-19 pandemic forced the event to be postponed last month.
Having claimed his grounded opponent was “hiding in Russia” during the build-up and publicly highlighting that he was ready to fight, Ferguson has now likened Nurmagomedov to a gamer who presses all the buttons rather than employing any considered tactics.
“Justin Gaethje is not a button masher like Khabib,” Ferguson told TSN, analyzing a new foe who has insinuated that he stood in at short notice because the American represents an easier challenge than Nurmagomedov.
“He’s going to go in there and actually have some technique, he’s going to have some conditioning. He’s training at a mile high over in Denver and he’s going to come in guns-a-blazing.
“He’s a strong opponent…a very strong-willed opponent. I really don’t have anything bad to say about this dude.”
Gaethje, who will start as a heavy underdog, has said he is confident of ensuring the proposed fight between Ferguson and Nurmagomedov is scuppered yet again by beating his fellow American in Florida.
“I wouldn’t have taken the fight with Khabib on short-notice,” he told BT Sport, explaining his belief that Ferguson is a less physically taxing opponent and easier to hit.
“In order to get taken down once or twice by Khabib, and work up and still be able to fight, I really do need at least 10 weeks [to prepare].
“I have been training my whole life. But there is certain lactic acid that builds up that you really have to account for.”
Despite being gleefully mocked by former champion Conor McGregor when he carried out a mock weigh-in a day before the original UFC 249 date, Ferguson has relentlessly demonstrated his dedication to training during a camp that he says began in November.
“Nothing has changed but the name on the card,” he said. “We never worry about what our opponents do.
“We go in there and do our damage, our style. I’m going to go in and tag this dude.”