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Morning Report: Justin Gaethje responds to Dana White saying he’s passed on fights

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Justin Gaethje Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Later this month, Conor McGregor will face Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. After the fight was announced, UFC President Dana White declared that, should McGregor win, “Notorious” will have set himself up for a title shot against the winner of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. That’s unfortunate for lightweight contender Justin Gaethje who made a strong case for having dibs on the next title shot with three first-round knockouts in a row. When asked why McGregor would leapfrog Gaethje for a title shot, White went on to say that Gaethje has been turning down fights offered to him. Now, Gaethje has responded.

Speaking to MMA Tonight recently, Gaethje addressed White’s comments, adding context to the claims that he’s turned fights down and outlining why he did so.

“I’ve been trying to figure out what he’s talking about,” Gaethje said. “I know when he did that interview not too long ago when he kept saying, ‘Justin Gaethje knows what’s going on, he knows what’s happening,” I literally had no idea what he was talking about so it was pretty crazy.

“But I was just thinking about it with my dad, talking about it with my dad, and I’m pretty sure it was they offered me Tony Ferguson when Tony Ferguson fought Cowboy in June and they were looking for a replacement for that fight in May, in the beginning of May and I told them that wasn’t enough time, but if they pushed it back a little bit farther, I would take that fight. So it turned out they gave that fight to Cowboy. That happened and then, they asked if I wanted to fight Tony on Abu Dhabi’s card, and I said yes, and he said no. So I took the Cowboy fight just after that and then just recently, I believe he offered me Charles Oliveira in Brazil or Dan Hooker in New Zealand all while the champion did not have a fight and McGregor was coming back and still looking for a fight. As far as I know, that’s what the deal is. I don’t know.”

As previously mentioned, Gaethje shouldn’t need to accept any more fights to earn a title shot. In his last three fights, the former WSOF lightweight champion has knocked James Vick, Edson Barboza, and Donald Cerrone all in the first round, earning a performance bonus for each of them. On top of that, Gaethje has been the most exciting fighter in the UFC since signing with the promotion in 2017, racking up seven post-fight bonuses in six fights. So given that, Gaethje says he doesn’t think White’s comments were meant as a personal attack on him, but were necessitated by White needing to sell the potential Conor McGregor-Khabib Nurmagomedov rematch.

“I’ve never ever, really [spoken with Dana],” Gaethje said when asked if he’d talked to White about the comments. “Maybe one time in my life. I don’t have his number, he doesn’t have my number so I’m not sure. . . He has people above him, Dana White, and this is a money business. He has people above him that are telling him he needs to put this fight together because it’s going to make the most money, I’m sure. I’m guessing that’s why he’s saying these things. I don’t think he’s necessarily trying to make me look bad. I’ve done everything that that man could ever want from a fighter or an employee or someone that he pays money to watch. So I don’t necessarily think it’s personal against me, I think people above him telling him that he needs to make that fight happen no matter what.”

Nurmagomedov and McGregor faced off against each other in 2018, with Khabib dominating the bout and submitting McGregor in the fourth round. It was the biggest Pay-Per-View event in UFC history by a wide margin and, even though the bout was relatively uncompetitive, the wild brawl that ensued after the fight has sparked interest in a rematch that is likely the biggest possible fight the UFC could put on right now. Of course, that’s all predicated on Nurmagomedov defeating Tony Ferguson and McGregor defeating Cowboy Cerrone.

But even if McGregor wins at UFC 246 he’ll have to wait a long time for a rematch with Khabib, and Notorious has already started suggesting a possible fight with BMF champion Jorge Masvidal. In contrast, Gaethje is 100 percent focused on the lightweight title and hopes that he can get a number one contender’s bout as the co-main event to Khabib-Ferguson. That way, should something happen to the main event, he can fill in and otherwise, he’ll have staked his claim to a title shot against the winner.

“I’d fight a 100 percent title contender fight against anybody on April 18th, co-main event,” Gaethje said. “Then fight for the title against whoever wins the title that night. If it’s Tony, hopefully sooner than September, and if it’s Khabib, then I’ll wait for Ramadan to pass and I’ll wait for him to train and then be ready for him in September.”


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VIDEO STEW

Conor McGregor vs. Eddie Alvarez.

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Abdulmanap discussed Khabib’s childhood.

Top 10 UFC title contenders.


LISTEN UP

Fight Court. King Mo recaps Bellator Japan and Rizin.

MMA Roasted. Interviews with Jake Ellenberger and Jason Miller.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Magomed Ankalaev (12-1) vs. Ion Cutelaba (15-4, 1 NC); UFC Norfolk, Feb. 29.

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FINAL THOUGHTS

Thanks for reading and see y’all on Monday.


EXIT POLL

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