Justin Gaethje is torn when it comes to making an official pick for the UFC 280 lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev, but he’s slightly leaning towards Makhachev to get it done.
Oliveira and Makhachev battle for the vacant strap in the main event of the UFC’s Oct. 22 pay-per-view in Abu Dhabi. Oliveira stopped Gaethje in the first round at May’s UFC 274 event in his most recent bout, but was stripped of the title after missing weight in a historic and unfortunate moment.
With his sights set on getting another chance to fight for the title, Gaethje will certainly be watching the highly anticipated matchup very closely.
“It could be an amazing fight, or it could be extremely boring,” Gaethje told MMA Fighting. “Makhachev probably wins by decision, but Oliveira’s been super impressive.”
Gaethje recently teamed up with the UFC, Modelo, and Rebuilding Together for the promotion’s gym revitalization program in Denver. For the program’s second gym renovation, Topeira Boxing Club was chosen after local trainer and owner Joaquin Romero was tragically killed in a hit and run accident in February, which led to his father Oscar taking over to keep his son’s dream alive.
After having successful nose surgery over the summer, Gaethje is hoping to return to the octagon in the first quarter of 2023, and believes he could find himself in a matchup with the loser of the upcoming 155-pound title fight.
With the stakes so high and margin for error so small, Gaethje sees one potential aspect of the bout that could be the biggest key to victory for either guy.
“I think whoever is hanging out on their back foot is going to lose,” Gaethje said. “I don’t see Makhachev being on his back foot, and Charles is going to make it a point to not be on his back foot. But can Makhachev put him there? That’s going to be the biggest factor.”