Justin Gaethje could see about as well as the eyes tattooed on his stomach could before getting eye surgery, says Dan Hardy.
Gaethje pieced together an incredible 17-0 run prior to signing with the UFC. He had corrective eye surgery heading into his debut against Michael Johnson. Hardy spoke with Gaethje ahead of UFC 249 and shared a tangible story of just how bad Gaethje’s vision was.
“He was saying before he had the eye surgery, he would have to get his hands on his opponent to know where they were. His eyesight was so bad that he actually had to physically be in contact with his opponent to know what he was hitting,” Hardy told John Gooden on Inside the Octagon. “Now he’s had the eye surgery and he has perfect 20/20 vision. So he’s lining these guys up perfectly with that right hand. He’s got the depth of perception down, he’s got the judgment of distance down. He is able to see them better and clearer.”
“Even to the small things like reading facial expressions,” Hardy added. “You can look at a fighter’s face that’s under pressure and kind of get an idea of which direction they’re moving. If you can’t see their eyes, then you don’t get those reads. So it’s almost like he’s got this whole new skill set that’s been delivered to him just purely because he has 20/20 vision now.”
Gaethje — who has remarkably earned seven fight night bonuses across six UFC fights — went 1-2 before cracking off three first-round knockouts. Perhaps a refined game plan paired with his renewed vision is the recipe for his precision airstrike of a right hand.
UFC 249 takes place at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida on May 9. The card features two title bouts: an interm lightweight title fight between Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje, and a bantamweight title fight between Henry Cejudo and Dominick Cruz.