Justin Gaethje knows he’s the most deserving person for a shot at the UFC lightweight title no matter what Daniel Cormier or Khabib Nurmagomedov have to say otherwise.
Just a week prior to his epic war with Michael Chandler at UFC 268, Gaethje got into a war of words with Cormier after he worked as a commentator during Islam Makhachev’s win over Dan Hooker. Following Makhachev’s first-round submission win, Cormier asked the Russian if he felt like the performance was enough to leapfrog over Gaethje as the new No. 1 contender in the division.
None of that sat too well with Gaethje, but he made it clear that there was no personal grudge — he just didn’t like the way Cormier seemed to show favoritism towards Makhachev, who also happened to be his friend and teammate at American Kickboxing Academy.
“It’s got me in trouble many times in my life but I consider myself a straight shooter,” Gaethje told MMA Fighting. “When I see something, I speak to it. When I saw that happen that night, I said what I thought and I was unhappy.
“If DC was in my shoes and someone was trying to pass him up, take money off his table, take food away from his family, he would have said the same thing.”
Following Gaethje’s jaw-dropping win over Chandler that earned him a sixth Fight of the Night bonus in the UFC, Cormier conceded that he deserved the next title shot and Makhachev would likely have to compete again before earning his own opportunity at lightweight gold.
Of course, Gaethje appreciated the recognition, because he knew there was no way he could be denied after beating another top contender in Chandler.
“I got respect for what [Cormier] tried to do,” Gaethje said. “But again, not even DC can challenge the f*cking integrity of what I just did.”
While Cormier was happy to name Gaethje as the No. 1 contender at lightweight, former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov also commented on the subject as he pushed for his fighter in Makhachev to get the title shot after he earned a ninth straight win with the submission against Hooker.
Gaethje countered by pointing at his ridiculous resume since joining the UFC where he’s faced a killer’s row of competition including four fights against former champions while building a 5-1 resume over his past six appearances.
Rather than dissecting Makhachev’s record compared to his own, Gaethje has an alternative idea when it comes to the lightweight title picture.
“I’ll let him go first if he gets his spot,” Gaethje said about offering Makhachev the first shot at the title if he becomes champion. “I’ll beat one of these guys [Charles Oliveira or Dustin Poirier] and then I’ll allow him to go first. F*ck yeah, I’m looking forward to that.”
Gaethje fully anticipates that he’ll face the winner of the UFC 269 main event between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier and then he has no problem giving Makhachev his opportunity at becoming champion.
In typical Gaethje fashion, he just hopes Makhachev is ready for what will happen once they do battle in the cage together.
“War is coming,” Gaethje said. “He has to know one thing, f*cking war is coming. So bring it.”