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Justin Gaethje hoping to lure Conor McGregor with violent win over Eddie Alvarez: ‘He’s crazy like I am’

Justin Gaethje is hoping to fight Conor McGregor in 2018.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

LOS ANGELES — Justin Gaethje wants to fight Conor McGregor, just like everybody else in the UFC’s lightweight division. “The Highlight” has a plan, though, and it’s wrapped up in his nickname.

Gaethje said he believes a vicious knockout of Eddie Alvarez at The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale on Dec. 1 will get McGregor’s attention. Gaethje and Alvarez are coaching opposite one another on this season of TUF, which premieres Wednesday night on FS1. TUF 26 will crown the UFC’s first women’s flyweight champion.

“McGregor, when he comes back, he’s gonna pick whoever he wants,” Gaethje said Wednesday at a media lunch in Century City. “As the competitor that I see him being, he’s gonna want the most dangerous guy. When I finish Eddie Alvarez quickly, that’s gonna be me.

“On paper and on TV, I’m the most dangerous, violent guy in this division. Most hittable guy. So that’s probably someone he’d want to fight. As long as I knock out Eddie Alvarez quickly, that’s my goal — to get that fight.”

Conventional wisdom states that McGregor, the UFC lightweight champion, will have to face the interim champion upon his return. That will either be Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee, who fight for that belt in the main event of UFC 216 on Oct. 7 in Las Vegas. Gaethje doesn’t think Ferguson or Lee will appeal to McGregor, though, because they don't appeal to him as opponents.

“[McGregor] has to come back and he’s not gonna want to fight Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee,” Gaethje said. “Being the crazy person I am, Eddie Alvarez and Conor make me nervous and make me lose sleep at night. I don’t lose any sleep when I think about Tony Ferguson or Kevin Lee. Not saying they can’t beat me or wouldn't beat me. They just don’t do it for me. I would want someone who did it for me. It would be Khabib [Nurmagomedov] or Conor. I would love to go to Ireland.”

McGregor crossed over into boxing last Saturday night for a mega event against Floyd Mayweather. It was a matchup between the two biggest stars historically in either sport. McGregor made in the ballpark $100 million for that fight and there are some who say he won’t return to the UFC.

But “The Notorious” said in the post-fight press conference that he will come back. He said he’s planning to fight in MMA and boxing moving forward. The one name he did bring up that night was Nate Diaz. The two are 1-1 against each other at 170 pounds the trilogy fight does make some sense at 155, though Diaz hasn’t really done enough to earn a title shot.

Gaethje said he wouldn’t be upset if Diaz jumped the line and got the fight with McGregor before anyone else.

“He don’t give a f*ck about his belt, which is fine,” Gaethje said of McGregor. “Whatever. I don’t know.”

All Gaethje can do right now, he said, is worry about Alvarez, the man McGregor knocked out to become the lightweight champion. The Grudge Training Center product believes if he finishes Alvarez in spectacular fashion he’ll be on McGregor’s radar. McGregor tweeted about his debut victory over Michael Johnson in July, which will likely be the Fight of the Year for 2017.

“He loves it,” Gaethje said of McGregor. “He f*cking loves it and he’s crazy like I am about this sport. It has to do it for him. Obviously the pay has to be big, he’s a businessman. Smart businessman. But I don’t think that Ferguson or Lee would do it for him.”

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