Justin Gaethje still intends on capturing undisputed UFC lightweight gold before all is said and done.
An interim title fell into the possession of the man known as “The Highlight” after an empty-arena dismantling of Tony Ferguson in May 2020. Gaethje’s striking masterclass en route to a fifth-round TKO earned him the temporary title and led to an October clash with the then-undefeated divisional king Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Three years later, the 34-year-old Gaethje is back in a title fight but of a different ilk. UFC 291 takes place this Saturday night in Salt Lake City, Utah where Gaethje rematches Dustin Poirier with the revived Baddest Motherf***** (BMF) belt up for grabs. A win for either fan favorite sets them up as the next possible challenger for the winner of the upcoming undisputed tilt between the current champion Islam Makhachev and top contender Charles Oliveira. Therefore, the question remains: Who has the best chance to dethrone the near-perfect 24-1 Nurmagomedov protege in Makhachev?
“If we’re going off of what we know then it’s gonna be [Alexander] Volkanovski because he already fought him and it was a really close fight,” Gaethje told Shakiel Mahjouri. “I’ve never fought him, Poirier’s never fought him. I guess if you want to say someone it could be the 125-pound champion (Alexandre Pantoja). Who knocked him out? I was gonna make fun of [Brendan Schaub] ... I’ve made fun of him so much.
“I think Volkanovski is the answer for now, but I can’t wait to get in there. I know for a fact he’s not Khabib and I want to go in there and prove that.”
Makhachev’s lone career defeat came in his sophomore UFC appearance in 2015 opposite Adriano Martins (not Pantoja as believed by Schaub). Since then, it’s been nothing but sheer dominance from Makhachev up until his champion vs. champion classic with the featherweight titleholder Volkanovski this past February. Makhachev successfully earned his first title defense by unanimous decision.
The promotion made Makhachev vs. Oliveira 2 official last week for the headliner of UFC 294 in October, leaving the winner of Poirier vs. Gaethje 2 with a waiting period after a win. Ultimately, Gaethje doubts he’d have been able to turn around in that amount of time if requested should everything go his way this weekend.
“The UFC isn’t going to protect you,” Gaethje said. “It’s just the name of the game. You got to take time between these fights. Not just the fights but the training camp we just went through. I’ve just been through 12 weeks of training. Extremely hard, six days a week, and your body gets broken down. It’s something that you really got to focus on is understanding you gotta go through a healing process every single time you step in there.
“The physical aspect, but I would say even the mental aspect, is a traumatic life experience every time you step in there. And you really gotta take some time to heal every time you do that.”
Update. New UFC 291 main card revealed with Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje 2 for BMF title
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UFC London Post Show.
UFC 291 Countdown.
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SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE
you were missing, what happened? pic.twitter.com/Ut5Voa48bb— Paulo Costa ( Borrachinha ) (@BorrachinhaMMA) July 23, 2023
When they asked if I want to box or do mma pic.twitter.com/CcV0nFWazH— Francis Ngannou (@francis_ngannou) July 23, 2023
She picked the absolute most chaotic escape option and it worked lmao pic.twitter.com/53DK81gVnn— BJJotter (@JiujitsuOtter) July 23, 2023
Don’t you just love when you know a fight is guaranteed to be magnificent? It’s one of those fight weeks, folks.
Thanks for reading!
Last Week’s Results:
Friday: 75% of 563 total votes answered “Dricus Du Plessis” when asked, “Which fight interests you more for Israel Adesanya?”
Wednesday: 60% of 657 total votes answered “No” when asked, “Does a Nate Diaz loss to Jake Paul hurt his chances of returning to the UFC?”
Tuesday: I accidentally doubled up on the Thursday poll here. SHAME.
Monday: 83% of 422 total votes answered “Yes” when asked, “Do you agree with Eddie Hearn?”
Today’s exit poll:
Who wins this weekend?
This poll is closed