LOS ANGELES — Very quickly — and somewhat unexpectedly — Justin Gaethje and Michael Johnson have developed a pretty heated rivalry. It started last month at the UFC’s Summer Kickoff and it will commence July 7 in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale.
On Thursday, though, it hit a new peak. The two talented lightweight fighters exchanged words during a staredown at a UFC media day at the JW Marriott in Downtown LA. And then, as they were leaving the hotel, the two got into a verbal altercation.
Johnson called Gaethje “the most inbred piece of sh*t I’ve ever seen in my life” and asked him, “Who in the family had sex with each other to have you?” Video of the scene was posted to Johnson’s Instagram page.
The real funny thing about this video is the fact that, I REALLY DO THIS. Should've seen how MAD he was at the end. I stay cool! Mental warfare. These words mean nothing. Trying to talk hisself into something. I'm under this boys skin like buffalo bill himself! Next weekend is war time, having fun with this mental midget! Shoutout @dannymma213 for the slick footage lol. #july7th #mentalwarfare #fights #teammj #teammenace #ufc #tuffinale #inbreeding #nogames
Gaethje’s response was difficult to hear, but he spoke to MMA Fighting about his newfound rivalry with Johnson during the media day.
“Michael Johnson says I’m a C-league fighter,” Gaethje said. “He’s gonna look like a big ass when I knock him out and break him, so whatever. False confidence is false confidence. I’ll have all you want of that.”
Johnson fired the first barbs of the rivalry at the Summer Kickoff presser in May, calling into question Gaethje’s résumé as the former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion. Gaethje, obviously, didn’t like that very much and the two went back and forth.
“I’ve broken every single person I’ve fought,” Gaethje said Thursday. “Melvin Guillard went to a split decision with me, he left the third round in a wheelchair. He did not walk to the back — he left in a wheelchair. If you don’t knock me out, you’re not gonna make it past the third round.”
Johnson (17-11) laughed off Gaethje saying he would break Johnson in the TUF 25 Finale main event. “The Menace” doesn’t think Gaethje is capable.
“Gaethje is a f*cking fool,” Johnson said. “Who’s broken me in the UFC? I’ll wait. You can tell me who — nobody has broken me in the UFC and it won’t be a newcomer, I’ll tell you that.”
Gaethje is known for his all-action style. Johnson said that will be a detriment to him in their fight and he plans on taking advantage of it.
“That’s exactly what I’m gonna exploit,” Johnson said. “He takes way too much damage. He sits there and has wars with these guys. His career’s not gonna last that long. He looks at fights like 50-50. They go in there and start throwing punches. Do I think he’s gonna fight me like that? No, I don’t. I think we’re gonna get in there and I think we’re gonna trade some punches and then he’s gonna start to wrestle, if he doesn’t wrestle right from the start.”
Gaethje was a very good Division I wrestler. But his game is standing and trading. He pushes an oppressive pace on his opponent and that, combined with his skills, has been the reason for his success.
“My timing and pressure is the definition of MMA,” Gaethje said. “I’m comfortable here.”
Gaethje, 28, prides himself on being able to break opponents. He believes that will be the outcome of the fight with Johnson.
“He likes to be the hammer, he doesn’t like to be the nail,” Gaethje said. “I’m gonna go in there and show him. Him saying I’m a C-league fighter, it’s false confidence. I’ve got 17 fights, 14 knockouts. He’s lost 11 times. He’s been submitted seven times and he’s lost four decisions. You don’t lose four decisions without quitting, without being outworked. I’ve never been outworked.”
Johnson said he respects Gaethje and enjoys his style. But he maintains that Gaethje has never fought anyone like him before. Johnson is a true veteran of the UFC with 16 fights and seven years in the promotion.
“He hasn’t fought anybody that moves like me,” Johnson said. “He hasn’t fought anybody with the speed I have. He hasn’t fought anybody that has fought the guys I’ve fought. You can throw anything out there. You can throw everything he says. But when it comes down to it, July 7, he’s gotta fight Michael Johnson. He can leave all those words and all the shit that he’s said in the hotel room.”