Justin Gaethje wants to become UFC champion, and following a first-round TKO against Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, he’s one giant step closer towards his ultimate goal.
The victory on Saturday night was Gaethje’s third straight knockout as he continues his meteoric rise up the lightweight ranks with only a couple of potential opponents remaining ahead of him in the rankings.
That’s why he’s making a pre-emptive strikes to call for the winner right now.
“I want the winner of Tony and Khabib,” Gaethje said in his post-fight interview. “I want to fight for the world title. I want to prove I’m the best in the world. So that’s what’s next.”
Of course, Gaethje would gladly step into the fight immediately if something happens and Ferguson is unable or unwilling to face Nurmagomedov when it comes time for the lightweight title to be defended again.
“I haven’t even heard Tony’s going to fight so if an injury occurs then absolutely I want that fight,” Gaethje added.
If Ferguson does get the next shot at gold, Gaethje still believes Nurmagomedov will retain his championship and that is a fight he’s wanted ever since first arriving in the UFC.
Gaethje knows he would be the underdog against the undefeated Russian wrecking machine but he would gladly accept the challenge to hand Nurmagomedov his first defeat.
“He probably beats me if you put it on paper but I hit so hard, I kick so hard and I’m so athletic,” Gaethje said about a potential matchup with Nurmagomedov. “The way you stop a takedown in wrestling is to meet force with force. You don’t try to go away. I won’t touch the cage.
“If he’s going to take me down, it’s going to be in the middle and he’s going to get his leg kicked a few times before he even gets a shot off.”
Another name mentioned to Gaethje on Saturday night was former two-division UFC champion Conor McGregor, who has teased a potential return to action before the end of 2019.
While that timeline seems somewhat unlikely given the landscape of the remaining cards left this year, McGregor had previously mentioned Gaethje as a potential opponent when he was planning his return in July before a broken hand sidelined him for several months.
While Gaethje’s focus remains on the championship, he would gladly welcome McGregor back if that’s a fight the UFC wants to make.
“As far as I know he’s retired. He is in the rankings so he either fights or he gets out. That’s how I see it,” Gaethje said about McGregor. “I absolutely would love to fight him.”
One name that doesn’t interest Gaethje, however, is a rematch against the last man to defeat him.
Following the fights on Saturday, former interim champion Dustin Poirier said via Twitter that he would offer Gaethje a rematch if he wanted to attempt to settle the score after falling to him last year.
“I would be really, really happy to fight the winner of [Khabib vs. Ferguson],” Gaethje said when asked about Poirier. “I don’t owe him that, so no. He got his shot. My turn.”