The long awaited, highly anticipated lightweight matchup between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson was expected to take place at UFC 249 but Khabib was forced out of the bout due to travel restrictions in his native Russia amid concerns of coronavirus.
Justin Gaethje has stepped in as Nurmagomedov’s replacement and is scheduled to take on Ferguson for the interim lightweight championship on May 9 and, although Gaethje was originally looking forward to the matchup, ‘The Highlight’ takes delight in knowing that he’ll be the one to screw things up and put an end to the Khabib-Ferguson saga once and for all.
“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be a destination, it will be a map, a map to the top,” Gaethje told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto in a recent interview (h/t MMA Fighting). “That’s how I’m looking at it. It will be nice to have a belt wrapped around you but for me it won’t be the same. It will never mean that I’m a world champion in the UFC. But yes, absolutely, when I beat Tony, I’m fighting Khabib next. That’s what I’m here for. I’m trying to be the best in the world. And when I fight him I want him to try to kill me because I won’t respect him if he doesn’t.”
“As a fan, I want to see that fight just as much as anybody, he added. “But to put food on my table. . . I really don’t care about that. I will feel a little bad because I know how bad people want it but for me to act like it will bother me, that would be a lie. I’m going to be very happy to royally screw that up.”
Gaethje also claimed that he didn’t know he was fighting on the May 9 card until the UFC announced the news on Twitter.
“Same way I found out it was off: on the internet,” Gaethje said when asked how he found out about the May 9 card. “I saw that Dana had said that he was having this card May 9th and that I was the main event and I was like, ‘What the hell?!’ To be honest, I was a little bit upset because I’ve always told them I don’t want to fight on short training camps and I don’t blame them, but they had the assumption that because I was going to fight on April 18th I would do it on May 9th, but those are totally different circumstances for me. So I really wasn’t happy about it, but you go back to the drawing board and risk versus reward, for a world title you can fight on a day’s notice.”
UFC 249: Ferguson vs. Gaethje is scheduled to take place next month, May 9, at a location TBA.