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Justin Gaethje responds to Conor McGregor: ‘I’m not going to fight someone on steroids’

Justin Gaethje initially responded with snark when asked about Conor McGregor’s reaction to his incredible UFC 291 knockout of Dustin Poirier.

“I think he’s turned me down six times,” Gaethje told MMA Fighting at the post-event press conference for Saturday’s pay-per-view. “And usually, you have to lose to fight him, so don’t know what’s going on.”

Then the new “BMF” champion calmly went for the jugular.

Among the first to react to Gaethje’s win was the former two-division champion, who frequently weighs in on the octagon action after an event. This time, McGregor issued a direct challenge, telling Gaethje, “I’ll slap you around.”

McGregor also tossed aside the fight he is expected to take, a meeting with Michael Chandler that is supposed to mark the end of their time as coaches on The Ultimate Fighter 31.

Chandler was none too pleased with the development. The former Bellator champ has been trying mightily to get McGregor back into the octagon after their time on the reality show. He has made “The Notorious” a target from the beginning of his UFC run, targeting a showdown with the sport’s biggest star.

For most fighters, a meeting with McGregor offers a life-changing payday, and there’s not much arm-twisting to get a yes from prospective opponents.

Maybe Gaethje was playing coy, but in the wake of his big win on Saturday, he no-sold the opportunity.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know. You know, I don’t really care. I don’t really care.”

At one point, Gaethje cared very much for the matchup. In the past he’s regularly called out McGregor, trashing him in interviews as he sought the fights that would move him closer to the undisputed belt. With McGregor (at the moment) in pursuit, he played a little harder to get.

“Because I don’t care,” Gaethje said when asked why he wasn’t jumping at a McGregor callout. “Whatever. I fight MMA, I like to fight big fights, I like exciting things, so it sounds pretty exciting to me.

“I’m not going to fight someone on steroids. I’ve never taken steroids in my life, never will – well, maybe when I retire, I might. But I’ve never taken steroids, and I don’t want to fight someone that’s cheating. And I probably shouldn’t even say that if I want the fight, but it’s the truth.”

There was the truth that Gaethje has regularly offered in interviews. Whenever McGregor has slipped up in public, he’s been there to offer a scathing assessment of the Irish star’s character. Lately, that’s been tied up in whispers of performance-enhancing drug use by UFC fighters who’ve watched McGregor bulk up considerably after exiting the UFC’s drug-testing pool administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency.

McGregor has never tested positive for PEDS during his career. He and his team have promised to go by the book with the USADA after a long injury layoff due to a broken leg suffered in a trilogy with Poirier. But as of yet, he hasn’t joined the drug testing pool, frustrating Chandler, who expected an end-of-year showdown at UFC 296 and saw that opportunity jeopardized by a six-month window McGregor missed to enroll with the USADA.

Of course, the anti-doping agency could approve an exemption from that testing window, and UFC President Dana White hasn’t ruled out doing so. That puts the ball back in Gaethje’s court, and it sounds like he’s pursuing UFC gold before anything else. A rematch with Charles Oliveira beckons if the Brazilian ex-champ is able to reclaim the belt against current titleholder Islam Makhachev at UFC 294.

“I’d prefer Charles, because he beat me,” Gaethje said of his choice of opponents. “I’m a competitor. This chance at redemption was amazing. It drove me to work harder, to be ready more, but they’re the best in the world, and I want to fight the best in the world.”

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