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Justin Gaethje: Tony Ferguson a harder puzzle to solve than Khabib Nurmagomedov

Justin Gaethje thinks Tony Ferguson could be a harder matchup than Khabib Nurmagomedov.

UFC 249’s Justin Gaethje thinks Tony Ferguson could be a harder, or perhaps trickier, matchup than Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Gaethje, who will take on Ferguson for the interim lightweight title this Saturday in the UFC 249 main event, believes ‘El Cucuy’ is a harder puzzle to solve than the current lightweight champ.

Gaethje is confident in his ability to stuff Khabib’s predictable takedowns but doesn’t know how he’s going to deal with Ferguson’s highly unorthodox style on May 9.

“We have seen him get hit, we’ve never seen him get finished,” Gaethje said of Ferguson ahead of UFC 249 (h/t MMA Fighting). No one ever put Edson to sleep like he did it. I know how hard it’s going to be to find the shot, but it only takes one, and I possess the skills and the power to land it. Tony is a very unique fighter, and it’s going to take time and patience to figure out how to be successful.”

“I think the puzzle is going to be harder. There’s so many unknowns with Tony. You know what Khabib is going to do, and that’s going to be take you down, try to push you against the fence. And if not, he’s going to try and take shots from the space in the middle of the octagon.

“I believe that he can’t take me down in the middle of the octagon, and I can stay off the fence. So that puzzle is written. How do you beat Tony? I don’t know. I’m going to find out.”

The winner of Ferguson-Gaethje is expected to take on Khabib in a lightweight title unification bout later this year and, the way Gaethje sees it, both himself and Ferguson are fighting for the chance to represent America in what could be perhaps the biggest fight of the year.

“That’s all I dream about is the opportunity to prove I’m the best,” Gaethje said. “But yeah, they’ve got some very personal issues. I’ve got nothing to do with that. But we’re fighting for the right to represent the United States of America against Russia’s best. I believe it’s hard for the United States to get behind one fighter, because we’re such a melting pot and we’re from so many places. But I believe that I can possibly bring us together and go to war with the United States behind me, and that’s huge.”

UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje takes place Saturday, May 9 at the VyState Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida.