Former interim UFC lightweight champion, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje looks to do one better in his next Octagon walk, as he suggests an undisputed title opportunity against the victor of the upcoming UFC 257 rematch between Dustin ‘The Diamond’ Poirier, and ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor.
Hoping to also return to the winner’s enclosure in his next Octagon appearance, the damaging puncher headlined UFC 254 in October on ‘Fight Island’ — dropping a second-round triangle defeat to Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov in a lightweight title unification tilt.
The Trevor Wittman and Elevation Fight Team mainstay seen his four-fight unbeaten run snapped by Khabib, having himself snapped fellow former interim titleholder, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson’s division tying twelve fight undefeated spree at UFC 249 on short-notice in May.
Yet to be booked since the submission loss to the undefeated Dagestani, Gaethje who still occupies the #1 rank at 155-pounds, insists he plans on clashing with the victor of the above mentioned UFC 257 rematch of Poirier and McGregor — if Khabib follows through with plans on his sudden retirement.
“I guess I think he’s (Khabib Nurmagomedov) retired from competing other than maybe his bid farewell,” Gaethje said during a recent interview with The Schmo. “Like a GSP (Georges St-Pierre) or something like that. But other than that I don’t think he’s competing for a championship anymore.“
In the weeks since Khabib’s retirement, the promotion has booked some high-profile fights for the lightweight rank’s elite. Pairing Poirier with former two-weight world champion, McGregor for January, this weekend at UFC 256, the above mentioned, Ferguson draws the streaking grappling maestro, Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira in a massive matchup in regards to the division’s future.
For Gaethje, who has been briefly floated as an opponent for promotional newcomer, Michael Chandler, and Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker, the Arizona native has explained how he hopes to match with the winner of Poirier vs. McGregor II — after he returns to the win column first, however.
“I’m number one so of course I want to fight for that f*cking belt, that’s why I’m here,” Gaethje said. “Poirier and McGregor are fighting soon so I want to fight the winner of that. I wholeheartedly believe you should be coming off a win to fight for a belt. So my job is to get a win.“
Gaethje has of course already featured opposite Poirier, as recently as the main event of UFC Fight Night Glendale in April of 2018, dropping a fourth-round knockout defeat to the one-time interim lightweight gold holder — before he embarked on his aforenoted four-fight knockout rise.
A pairing of Gaethje and Straight Blast Gym counter striker, McGregor was tentatively targeted for a UFC pay-per-view event in July following the latter’s forty-second knockout win over common-foe, Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, until complications amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of gates to spectators, and Gaethje’s short-notice title triumph put the kibosh on that clash.