Khabib and Gaethje Make for a Refreshing Change

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Justin Gaethje
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - OCTOBER 23: In this handout image provided by UFC, (L-R) Opponents Khabib Nurmagomedov of Russia and Justin Gaethje face off during the UFC 254 weigh-in on October 23, 2020 on UFC Fight Island, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Talking the talk but not walking the walk would be a fitting name for the graveyard where the careers of MMA fighters go to die once they’ve run their mouths off and then got beaten. Indeed, the industry is full of pretenders who think they have what it takes to succeed in the octagon, only to be brutally found out.

To be quite fair, this isn’t a feature exclusive to just MMA. All combat sports, to some degree or another, are awash with loud characters who do more outside the ring than they are able to do in it. Take the English heavyweight Dillian Whyte, for example – before he fought Alexander Povetkin, he was accusing the division’s top fighters of running scared of him. In no uncertain terms, Whyte made it clear to the boxing public that he was a superior fighter and would show the likes of Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder when the time came.

That time may never come after Povetkin knocked Whyte spark out in round five of their matchup in August. Now, the Englishman has the chance to right the wrongs against Povetkin in the rematch, and at just 4/11 in boxing betting to do so, you’d have to probably agree that looks likely. However, that stain on his record will never go away after his first loss

This, of course, is just one high profile example of literally thousands to have happened. This piece would have to rival the bible for words written if we were to go through each and every loudmouth fighter who landed face-first on the canvas, whilst their opponent enjoyed the last laugh they were promised never to enjoy the pleasure of having.

Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje Faced Off in Abu Dhabi

But, in an industry full of false prophets, there are still a few who are able to back up talk of miracles by actually performing them. The incredibly exciting main event preview of UFC 254 gave us a timely reminder of that as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Justin Gaethje assembled on a beach in Abu Dhabi for their first face-off.

It wasn’t just the warm breeze that was blowing off the Persian Gulf that made this such a refreshing affair but rather the respect that these two showed each other. The customary shoving and threats of violence were replaced by a handshake and friendly pat on the arm. Gaethje even refused to wear the interim belt that he won after beating Tony Ferguson, which was the ultimate sign of respect given that he still considers Khabib as the man to beat.

Of course, come fight night, blood will flow and savage fight-to-the-death strikes will be inflicted by both fighters. We all know this is the case and no one is pretending otherwise, even if there were some niceties shared during the face-off. But the respect Khabib and Gaethje have for one another does do more to reinforce what a brutal industry this is, as opposed to hearing someone rattle off a list of things they plan to do to the other person.

Someone will of course lose but that doesn’t deem them an instant pretender, there are many fighters from across the codes who have lost but managed to come out with an enhanced reputation.

Indeed, it is the silent warriors like Khabib and Gaethje who let their fighting do the talking which earns them respect no matter what the eventual outcome. Surely there isn’t anything more intimidating than a man who holds an unwavering silent belief that he will win.

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