With his return less than a month away, Justin Gaethje is chomping at the bit to get back into the cage.
Next month, Justin Gaethje returns to the octagon for the first time in over a year when he takes on Michael Chandler in a featured lightweight bout at UFC 268. It’s a fight that fans have been speculating about since Gaethje was champion of the World Series of Fighting and Chandler was Bellator lightweight champion, and when it finally goes down, Gaethje says the fight is going to live up to the hype - unless Chandler backs down.
“The dude comes to fight,” Gaethje told The Schmo. “He loves fighting just as much as me. Styles make matchups and this is a stylistic matchup for the fans. Someone’s gonna get knocked out. Unless he turns into a b*tch and tries to turn this into a wrestling match the whole time. He’s talking about timid souls taking a step backwards. He’s gonna be a timid soul when he starts shooting for legs because he doesn’t like the power. That’s what I think.”
Gaethje has not fought since coming up short against Khabib Nurmagomedov in his lightweight unification bout at UFC 254. Since then, the 155-pound division has played host to a number of marquee matchups, including a vacant title bout where Chandler faced Charles Oliveira, despite having only one win in the UFC. Chandler ultimately lost to Oliveira and though Gaethje says he’s made his peace with what transpired, he’s still not a fan of being passed over in favor of Chandler.
“I was the most recent interim title holder,” Gaethje said. “I see both ways to it. From the outside, being me, I was not happy. If I’m on the inside, if I’m running a $4 billion company, $5-6 billion company, then I’d probably want to try to have people forget about that guy. So yeah, they did what they wanted to do, had to do in their eyes. I was upset, but it doesn’t matter. Gotta go on, gotta keep working.
“I lost. I don’t think you should get a title shot off a loss, but I think the circumstances were special. Similar to the circumstances that got Cory Sandhagen a title fight. He just came off a loss and he jumped in there for a title fight, and the guy didn’t retire. There’s been other ones, other examples of people getting shots off of losses. So yeah, I thought that was a bullsh*t way of saying I shouldn’t get it, just because I lost. Circumstances were different and that’s what it was.”
Fortunately for Gaethje, come UFC 268, he should have a chance to right those wrongs. Oliveira will defend his lightweight title against MMA Fighting’s top-ranked lightweight, Dustin Poirier, at UFC 269 in December, and Gaethje believes that if he wins at UFC 268, he will get to face the winner of that fight next.
“Absolutely. I go out there and get the dub on Nov. 6 and I will be fighting the winner of Poirier and Oliveira,” Gaethje said. “That’s definitely the plan. No. 1 fought No. 5, No. 3 fought No. 4, and if you were No. 2 you got f*cked, and it just so happened that my name was next to that No. 2 spot. So it is what it is. The opportunity is ahead of me to get what I want but I’ve got to capitalize.”
It’s a big opportunity for Gaethje but it’s not just a chance to solidify himself as the next lightweight title contender. It’s also a chance to fight in front of fans again. With COVID-19 upending the world last year, Gaethje’s interim title win over Tony Ferguson and his lightweight title bout against Nurmgagomedov both happened without a raucous crowd in attendance. That will not be the case for UFC 268 and Gaethje says he’s just as excited about that as he is about the actual fight.
“I cannot wait to fight in front of fans,” Gaethje said. “I’m a show off, a performer. These last two fights have been different. I can’t want to get in there, feel the rush, feel the carnage, people wanting me to lose, win, all that stuff. I’m excited to go in there and put on a show. It’s the first time and I never want to fight without fans again. That was not fun for me, not ideal.”
UFC 268 takes place on Nov. 6 at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
Honor and family come first. When I first won the LW belt it was just about revenge. It was still an honor, but with the loss at 145 I’m starting over. It’s time for the LW division to move on and for @PatrickyPitbull to have his shot. My focus is on AJ and him only. #TheMMAHour— Patricio Pitbull (@PatricioPitbull) October 6, 2021
Not a small procedure by any means. But I KNOW I will be back! Just gotta keep things moving in the right direction. https://t.co/LlHR2oclel— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) October 7, 2021
Hahahhaha Jesus Christ can you actually imagine the atmosphere at this thing now!!— Peter Queally (@peterqueally) October 6, 2021
♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ ♂️ pic.twitter.com/g0lOwwvIux— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) October 6, 2021
Maybe I'll just stay retired cuz I'm so damn good at this coaching thang! The Phil Jackson of MMA™. Lock your doors, hide your thugs, and give us all the , because Zhang Weili 2.0 is COMING FOR YOU!— Henry Cejudo (@HenryCejudo) October 6, 2021
Full episode : https://t.co/70q7YjHiBc pic.twitter.com/N1ge8PKBqc
In chicago for @MonsterEnergy and I ran into the champ @WWEBigE !!!! He is finally the @WWE champion and no one deserves it more. Congratulations my friend! #newday #wwechamp pic.twitter.com/ZEjfcjksov— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) October 6, 2021
Totally forgot this commercial happened.
Cris Cyborg (24-2) vs. Sinead Kavanagh (7-4); Bellator 271, Nov. 12.
Francis Ngannou (16-3) vs. Ciryl Gane (10-0); UFC 270, Jan. 22.
Thanks for reading and see y’all tomorrow.
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