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Morning Report: Justin Gaethje targeting lightweight title fight against winner of Poirier-McGregor 2

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Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

At UFC 254, Justin Gaethje challenged Khabib Nurmagomedov for the UFC lightweight title. It did not go his way.

Gaethje was submitted by the champion in the second round, and immediately afterwards, Khabib announced his retirement from MMA. Since then, Dana White and the UFC have yet to officially acknowledge Khabib’s exit from the sport, hoping to coax him back for one more run. But according to the man who fought him that night, and who shares a manager with him, even if they can bring him back for one more fight, it won’t be to defend his lightweight title.

“I guess I think he’s retired from competing other than maybe his bid farewell,” Gaethje told The Schmo recently. “Like a GSP or something like that. But other than that I don’t think he’s competing for a championship anymore.”

If Gaethje is correct, that means that eventually the UFC is going to have to vacate Khabib’s. lightweight title and the top contenders in the division have already begun jockeying for position to get a shot at belt when that happens. This weekend, third-ranked Tony Ferguson takes on seventh-ranked Charles Oliveira in the co-main event of UFC 256 and in January, second-ranked Dustin Poirier will face fourth-ranked Conor McGregor in the main event of UFC 257. Given those matchups, that leaves Gaethje, the top-ranked contender at lightweight, without a dance partner to stake his claim for the title, and so he’s looking for an opponent to fight in the meantime so he can ultimate face the winner of Poirer-McGregor for the title.

“I’m number one so of course I want to fight for that f*cking belt, that’s why I’m here,” Gaethje said. “Poirier and McGregor are fighting soon so I want to fight the winner of that. I wholeheartedly believe you should be coming off a win to fight for a belt. So my job now is to get a win.”

If he really wants to do so, there are a couple of options for Gaethje. The name most fans have thrown out is the UFC’s most recent addition, former Bellator champion Michael Chandler, but Gaethje could also face former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Or he could just skip all the hubbub and go straight to a title shot if the UFC wants to do that.

“I want to fight for the belt and if it is the winner of that fight then I would, in turn, need to beat somebody first,” Gaethje said. “But, I’ll definitely just fight the winner for the belt, I’m down with that, too.”

Depending how things unfold over the next several weeks, the UFC could be down with that too. Since joining the UFC in 2017, Gaethje has cemented himself as one of the most exciting fighters in the history of the sport, winning nine post-fight bonuses in eight fights. But Gaethje is more than just an exciting action-fighter. Gaethje rebounded from a rough start to his UFC career and has won four of his last five bouts, including an interim title, and the former World Series of Fighting champion believes the best is still yet to come for him.

“It’s a fun ride and it’s not over yet,” Gaethje concluded. “It’s not over until we go crashing down. I’m having fun. Tough break last fight. It was an honor to fight against Khabib, it was f*cking heartbreaking to lose, but I’ve been here before and I came back strong and I’ll continue to do the same thing.”


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El Cucuy. Tony Ferguson vents on fighting for UFC gold, lack of opponents: ‘Somebody was f*cking lying’.

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Challenger. Marvin Vettori to Israel Adesanya: ‘I’m going to be your worst f**king nightmare’ until the day you retire.

Missed. Goiti Yamauchi explains Bellator 254 weight miss, reports he can no longer fight at 155 pounds.

Farewell. Matt Wiman announces his retirement following his UFC release.


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