Gaethje: Interim Belt Is A Map, Not Destination
Despite having the chance to earn a UFC belt, Justin Gaethje won’t consider himself a true champion if he defeats Tony Ferguson next month.
Ferguson and Gaethje are currently slated to headline the rescheduled UFC 249 card which is set to take place on May 9. The winner of the fight will become interim lightweight champion with the guarantee of facing current 155-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year in a title unification fight.
But for Gaethje, the belt will only be an accessory and not a true indicator that he is a world champion in the UFC should he come out on top.
“When they wrap that belt around me, it won’t be the destination,” Gaethje told ESPN. “It will be a map to the top. That’s who I’m looking at. It’ll be nice to have a belt wrapped around, but for me, it won’t mean the same. It won’t mean I’m a world champion in the UFC.
“When I beat Tony, I’m fighting Khabib next. That’s what I’m here for, to be the best in the world. And when I fight him, I want him to try and kill me, because I won’t respect him if he doesn’t.”
Ferguson and Gaethje were supposed to fight this past weekend only for the event to be postponed earlier this month when UFC president Dana White was told to stand down by ESPN and Disney executives.
While there is a plan for an event to take place May 9, anything can happen leading up to it amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But “The Highlight” is only training as if the fight will 100 percent take place next month.
And that’s for his own sake.
“I have to be 100 percent confident,” Gaethje said. “I was 100 percent confident it was going to happen on April 18, because if I’m not, I pull my foot off the gas.”
UFC 249 is currently rumored to be taking place in Florida with the state easing restrictions on sporting events.