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Justin Gaethje interested in Kevin Lee next: ‘I just like punching loudmouths in the face’

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Justin Gaethje said he was very cordial to Kevin Lee earlier this year when the two UFC lightweight contenders met. Gaethje won’t make that mistake again, he told Ariel Helwani on Tuesday’s special 2017 year-end awards episode of The MMA Hour.

“First time I ever met him, he was nice,” said Gaethje, who won The MMA Hour’s Fight of the Year and Round of the Year for his battle with Michael Johnson in July. “Then [Lee] talked shit saying I was fan-boying over him. He doesn’t know what respect is. I’ll never show him respect again, that’s for sure.”

Gaethje said the two exchanged pleasantries at the UFC Summer Kickoff press conference before UFC 211 in Dallas back in May. The next time they encounter one another, there could be fisticuffs involved inside the UFC’s Octagon.

“I just like punching loudmouths in the face,” Gaethje said.

Gaethje (18-1) said he planned on taking some time off after losing an epic war against Eddie Alvarez at UFC 218 last month. The original plan was to stay out of the cage until summer 2018. Gaethje, 29, isn’t sure if it’ll play out that way, though.

“I’m sure I’ll get the itch sooner rather than later,” he said. “I said I wanted to wait around until June, July. But I’m sure I’ll get the itch sooner.”

And if Gaethje is back earlier this year, part of him is hoping Lee is the opponent. The fight would make sense from a division standpoint, too. Lee is coming off a loss to Tony Ferguson in an interim lightweight title fight. Gaethje had the big knockout win over Johnson in July and then stood toe to toe with Alvarez for most of three rounds before getting knocked out.

“It’s too soon, but we’ll see how things play out,” Gaethje said. “I might want to beat up Kevin Lee, that kid over there I want to beat up.”