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Khabib pays tribute to UFC 254 rival Gaethje with touching story despite recently calling McGregor a better striker

KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV has praised future rival Justin Gaethje but said he will “handle business” when the pair fight in October.

Gaethje will finally get the chance to claim the UFC lightweight title having stunned Tony Ferguson last time out.

But there won’t be any bad blood between the two warriors before the scrap.

Khabib has revealed that Gaethje has been on hand in the past to help him make weight for fights.

Speaking in a press conference previewing the fight, translated by RT.com, Khabib said: “I remember in 2016 when I was returning after I had three surgeries in a row, when Tony Ferguson got injured and I got Darrell Horcher on nine days’ notice.

“Justin helped me cut weight. I had a tough weight cut. He helped me cut the last 2.5 kilograms the morning before the weigh-ins.

“I remember I dropped the last kilogram in the hot bath.

“You might not know how we cut weight – you spend 15 minutes in a hot bath, then you’re wrapped in a towel and go back in. You do that three, four times.

“He helped take me out of the bath because there weren’t enough people around.

“You need a couple of people around you and Justin was there for me, so I have no ill will toward him.

“He fights [and] wants to be the best in the world and I respect his efforts.

“He achieved a lot in the sport and I think he’s a worthy opponent. You saw what he did to Tony Ferguson.

“I don’t underestimate him. It’s strictly professional. We’ll get in the cage, shake hands, handle our business and leave.”

Khabib’s comments of praise come after he claimed Gaethje isn’t quite at Conor McGregor’s level in striking terms.

The 31-year-old Russian said recently: “Is he better standing than Conor? I think no. 

“My fighting IQ tells me that Conor is better in standing than Gaethje.”

But despite mentioning bitter rival McGregor, that mouthwatering rematch might not happen for a while, if not never.

Not only is The Notorious “retired” but Khabib has told UFC chief Dana White he wants to fight Georges St-Pierre if he gets past Gaethje.

The UFC lightweight champ has revealed it was his late father’s “dream fight”.

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov died at the start of July after complications caused from coronavirus.

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