Ahead of his UFC 254 clash with Justin Gaethje on October 24, Khabib Nurmagomedov suggested he has already faced a tougher challenge in terms of striking ability.
In an interview with RT Sport (h/t Simon Head of MMAjunkie), Khabib said Conor McGregor is a better upright fighter than Gaethje: "I kind of agree that Gaethje is a very good fighter. If he was bad he would not have fought for the belt. Is he better standing than Conor? I think no. My fighting IQ tells me that Conor is better standing than Gaethje."
Nurmagomedov fought McGregor at UFC 229 and beat him by fourth-round submission to defend the UFC lightweight championship. Khabib then went on to beat Dustin Poirier at UFC 242 and owns a 28-0 record.
Khabib was supposed to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, but the coronavirus pandemic rendered him unable to travel to the United States. Instead, Ferguson fought Gaethje for the interim UFC lightweight title.
Gaethje prevailed via fifth-round technical knockout to win the interim title and improve to 22-2.
Few fighters are as accomplished as Gaethje when it comes to stopping opponents, as 19 of his 22 wins have come by way of knockout. For the sake of comparison, McGregor boasts a similar resume, with 19 of his 22 wins by knockout.
Gaethje's knockout percentage is better, though, as he picked up a KO in 19 in of 24 fights compared to 19 in 26 bouts for McGregor.
No fighter has ever been able to put Khabib down for good, as he has yet to lose, while one of Gaethje's losses came against someone Khabib beat in Poirier.
Those factors make Khabib the favorite entering the title fight at UFC 254, but with Nurmagomedov not having fought since September 2019, perhaps Gaethje will have a slight advantage when they meet.