After competing in his third Fight of the Year contender bout in as many outings, Justin Gaethje has a message for the fans: Better come see me while you can.
Gaethje’s hard-charging style has put him in memorable wars in all three of his UFC bouts, the latest being his fourth-round TKO loss to Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC on FOX 29 on Saturday night. And the former World Series of Fighting lightweight champion knows that the style of fighting he displayed at his hometown Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., is not the type that makes for long careers.
“I’ve got about five fights in me,” Gaethje told reporters following the bout. “Before this I said I’ve got six. ... I want the biggest fights possible. Coming off two losses, that’s hard to say, but you want to see me fight. But, if you don’t see me fight live, you will regret it when I’m done. It’s not going to be very long. I’ve got five left.”
This fight will go down as one that Gaethje might have let get away. He had turned the matchup in his favor in the third round, as his ruthless leg-kick assault seemed to be taking his toll on Poirier.
But Poirier ralled with a wicked flurry in the fourth that ended the bout, leaving some to question why Gaethje, who has a solid wrestling pedigree despite his reputation as a brawler, never tried to take the bout to the ground when things got tough.
“I don’t go in there to not wrestle,” Gaethje said. “I was kicking his ass on the feet. My game plan was go in there and break his legs, break his body, and, I did that. I was in the process of doing that, and he took it. Its stupid of me to try to get on top of him there when I’m landing leg kicks.”
Geathje was docked a point in the third round for his second eye poke of the fight, and while he didn’t appear happy with referee Herb Dean’s call when it was made, he also wasn’t going to publicly criticize him without looking at a tape of what went down.
“That’s his job. I’m not going to criticize him for anything right now,” Geathje said. “I have go go back and watch it. I feel like I poked him in the eye, I don’t know. Can’t say.”
Gaethje, who indicated he wants to take some time off after a whirlwind year which included a win over Michael Johnson last July (which was MMA Fighting’s 2017 Fight of the Year) and a loss to Eddie Alvarez in November (which placed third), says he’ll make adjustments from here.
“I’m not an idiot,” he said. “I’m not going to go home and say forget that and do it again. I’m going to go home, and we’re going to study what I did right and what I did wrong and we’ll make adjustments.”
But Gaethje also admitted that at this stage of the game, you probably shouldn’t expect him to reinvent himself.
“I don’t fight to win or lose, as stupid and crazy as that sounds,” Geathje said. “I go in there to entertain people This is the entertainment business. I go in there and I fight for money. That’s what I do, and it helps me to get paid.”