Coming off a dominant first round TKO victory over Donald Cerrone in September 2019, Justin Gaethje (21-2) has been pressing for a match up with superstar Conor McGregor. In a world where it often seems like every fighter on the lightweight, welterweight, and featherweight rosters are looking to reap the infamous “red-panty night” payday, Gaethje has other thoughts on his mind. Instead, the ‘Highlight’ says that he sees McGregor as a vehicle to get to the ultimate prize: UFC gold.
“It’s more just the cherry on top, the sundae is the belt,” Gaethje told BYM co-host Luis Gomes, expressing that – while he would welcome a fight with Conor – his ultimate focus is the lightweight king, Khabib Nurmagomedov. “I am trying to fight Khabib. Khabib has publicly stated that he doesn’t have very many fights left. So, I have to fight him before he goes away.”
Khabib and Gaethje are both managed by Ali Abdelaziz (Dominance MMA). Ali has previously expressed that he would be happy for Gaethje to fight Khabib. He told MMA Fighting last month, “Justin Gaethje should fight Khabib next”. An unusual stance for a manager, to pit two of his marquee fighters against one another, but it was a view shared by Michael Bisping.
“You are a natural threat to Khabib,” Bisping told the lightweight contender.
Gaethje concurred with the former UFC middleweight champion, and gave some thoughts on his route to victory. “I’m a great defensive wrestler... I wrestled Jordan Burroughs two times—Jordan Burroughs had a hell of a time trying to take me down. I stopped his double leg numerous times. And he also, probably, fractured my sternum—from me trying to stop him.
“I would refuse to fight on the fence,” Gaethje explained of a potential fight against Khabib. “If he was to beat me, he would have to wrestle me in the middle of the Octagon. And I would be trying to chop his leg off the whole time.”
It’s no secret that Gaethje wants to keep the fight a standing affair. An area where he feels he would have the distinct advantage. And judging by the three consecutive knock-out victories on his record, it would be hard to disagree.
Whoever Justin Gaethje goes on to fight next has to look forward to a motivated fighter. And if Gaethje wins again, it seems like a title shot may not be far off for this highlight machine.