A window of opportunity has opened up for James Vick to really make a name for himself in the UFC’s talent-rich lightweight division. Vick, who was scheduled to fight Paul Felder at UFC Boise on July 14th, accepted the call to take on Gaethje, who needed an opponent following Al Iaquinta’s withdrawal.
This is the first main event spot for Vick in his UFC career, and a win all but guarantees him a top-10 ranking. In an interview with The MMA Hour’s Luke Thomas, “The Texecutioner” talked about getting the chance to shine in a headlining role.
“I’m excited. I’m like a little kid, I’m getting this opportunity against a guy I really don’t care for,” Vick said (via MMA Fighting). “He’s a clown in my mind, and it’s a great opportunity for me. The moment they called me, I accepted the fight. I said yes, I’ll take it, 100 percent. And I feel blessed to be where I’m at. I feel like this is my destiny, to win this fight and go on to move to bigger things and become a world champion, and I feel like this is just all part of the process, the way it was supposed to happen.”
Vick (13-1) is on a four-fight winning streak, with perhaps his most impressive victory being a second-round TKO of Joseph Duffy at UFC 217 last November. His only career loss was a first-round KO to Beneil Dariush at UFC 199.
Whereas Vick has been on the rise for years, Gaethje (18-2) is in danger of falling out of title contention. As entertaining as he may be, he’s coming off consecutive knockout defeats to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, both absolutely phenomenal bouts. However, for as exciting as Gaethje may be, Vick believes that his setbacks in the UFC prove that he’s not an elite level fighter.
“For him, to be where he’s at, I think he’s doing a good job, because honestly I don’t think he’s a world-class fighter,” Vick said. “I don’t. I think the guy padded his record against B-level competition outside of the UFC, and now that he’s come over here, he’s been exposed. He’s been beat, he’s been knocked out. He has world-class heart, he’s a warrior, he’s not a punk — this dude is a warrior, I understand why he’s a fan favorite. I get why fans love him so much. I mean, I like watching him fight.
“The dude’s exciting. He’s a tough guy, but I have all those attributes too. If you think that I can’t bite down on my mouthpiece and throw leather, and sit there and tough it out and just win like that — I don’t have to fight like that, because I have a skill set. I think he lacks that. He has world-class heart, world-class grit in him, but he doesn’t have a world-class skill set, and I think he’s going to be exposed. I just don’t even think he’s a top-10 fighter in the UFC.”
UFC Fight Night: Gaethje vs. Vick takes place in Lincoln, Nebraska and airs live on FS1.
You can watch the full Vick interview at the top of the page.