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Gaethje: Usman is ‘the best in the world’ but ‘we’re on the downhill of our careers’

“I don’t want to fight until I’m 40, he doesn’t want to fight until he’s 40.”

Kamaru Usman during his welterweight title fight with Leon Edwards at UFC 278.
Kamaru Usman during his welterweight title fight with Leon Edwards at UFC 278.
Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images

Former welterweight champion and top pound-for-pound fighter Kamaru Usman captured UFC gold at 32 years of age. It is the prime for many athletes, but for a longtime competitor like “The Nigerian Nightmare” who’s been at it since his high wrestling school days, you can say he is older in fighting years.

The 35-year-old Usman lost the title to Leon Edwards at UFC 278, which also marked his first defeat in nine years. And while he still has a chance to reclaim the belt, his close teammate Justin Gaethje doesn’t see him in competition for too long.

“He’s the best in the world and again, we both understand it’s not the beginning,” Gaethje told Drake Riggs for MMA Mania. “It’s not even the middle anymore. It’s not the end, but we’re on the downhill of our careers, there’s no doubt about that.

“I don’t want to fight until I’m 40, he doesn’t want to fight until he’s 40, and I don’t want him to fight ‘til he’s 40.

Usman will likely face Edwards in a trilogy sometime in 2023. And Gaethje already expects a victory.

“He’s in a great spot. He’s gonna come back, maybe fight this guy in London, he’s better than him and he should win. The reason why we’re all such fans of this sport is because of the unpredictability at any given moment.

“And when you’re on the other side of what he just experienced, best feeling in the world. That’s what we’re all there for. He has the chance to go out there and get that feeling back.”

As for Gaethje, he told Riggs in the same interview that he has “two or three hard fights left.” And he expects one of them to be a “Fight of the Decade” rematch with Dustin Poirier, should the latter defeat Michael Chandler at UFC 281.