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Nobody could say McGregor didn’t earn Khabib vs. Ferguson winner ‘if he fights me and beats me,’ says Gaethje

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Top ranked UFC lightweight Justin Gaethje sees this as the perfect time for a bout with Conor McGregor, with the winner getting a shot at the lightweight champion.

UFC Fight Night: Cowboy v Gaethje Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

For a fighter like Justin Gaethje, there are probably few better times to look at the big picture in MMA. The top-ranked lightweight could be on the cusp of UFC title contention, but with potential future events up in the air due to the coronavirus pandemic – and title shot opportunities few and far between – he knows that waiting around to be handed a championship bout likely won’t get the job done. Especially not with the specter of former double-champ Conor McGregor hanging over the lightweight division.

McGregor recently returned from an extended hiatus (one marked by multiple legal issues) to defeat Donald Cerrone in the main event of UFC 246. In the buildup and aftermath of the bout, UFC president Dana White made it clear that McGregor’s victory over ‘Cowboy’ would put him next in line for a shot at the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. However, that’s not a plan that’s seemed to interest the Dagestani champ much, if he were to keep his belt. And it’s certainly not a plan that interests the ‘Highlight.’

“I think me and Conor need to fight each other to figure out the No. 1 contender,” Gaethje told MMA Fighting in a recent interview. “Outside of that, if I need to fight someone else to assure myself of the No. 1 contender’s spot and get the winner of that fight, I’ll do that. As long as that’s a sure thing.”

“You know it’s his choice,” Gaethje added. “[Conor McGregor] picks who he fights.

“He knows that if he fights me and beats me, nobody — Khabib [Nurmagomedov], Ali [Abdelaziz], whoever — can’t say much about him earning it or deserving the title shot. But until then, he ain’t going to get it.”

The Trevor Wittman-trained fighter added that he feels chances are “pretty good” that the fight gets made. Especially after a recent interview with McGregor’s boxing coach, Owen Roddy, who said that a bout between the two men sometime in July would “bring the UFC back to life.”

Obviously, that’s no guarantee. But, if the two sides can come together, the lightweight division could have one hell of a scrap on its hands when the UFC likely returns to action in the coming months.