Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Justin Gaethje is portraying both confidence and humour as he prepares to wage war against fellow American Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 in Florida on Saturday night.

A short-notice replacement fighter for indisposed Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gaethje has taunted Ferguson and invited him to break his nose to help him breathe normally again.

“I haven’t been able to breathe through my nose for like 12 years since wrestling,” the 31-year-old said during Thursday’s virtual media press conference. “So hopefully one of them elbows cracks my nose.”

Ferguson, however, laughed it off and responded saying: “He just doesn’t want me to hit him in the body,”

But beyond the jibes and trash talk, Ferguson vs Gaethje is a no-nonsense fight that is the show piece event of Saturday’s UFC comeback featuring 12 thrilling matchups.

“I said I wanted to fight Tony because I know we’re both special people when it comes to being able to be comfortable when adrenalin is coursing through your veins,” Gaethje said.

“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.”

Gaethje has admitted that he will need to absorb some heavy punishment and show discipline and patience if he were to defeat Ferguson.

“I’m going to get elbowed,” Gaethje said. “I’d be a fool to go in there and think I’m going to get out of there unscathed. Nine of 10 times, that’s not going to happen.

“We have seen him get hit, we’ve never seen him get finished. 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.”

Gaethje only signed to UFC in 2017 after vacating his World Series of Fighting lightweight title.

“This is everything. I’m fighting for my life, for everything I’ve worked for in my life,” he said. “This is a culmination of events that has led me to here.

“It’s one day at a time, one fight at a time. I never thought I would be here. But the fact that I’m here? I’m a competitor, I’m a show-off, I know how many people are going to be watching.

“I’m going to go out there and perform — that’s what I do. Even if I didn’t want to, it’s in me. I was made for this.”