There was in fact a possibility of seeing Justin Gaethje vs. Max Holloway this year.
Gaethje is set to face Michael Chandler at UFC 268 which takes place November 6 in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It will be his first fight in over a year having sat on the sidelines ever since his October defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov last year.
Given his place in the rankings, he expected to fight for the vacant lightweight title once Nurmagomedov retired. However, Michael Chandler and current lightweight champion Charles Oliveira were given that opportunity — something that annoyed Gaethje at the time.
“I was pissed off at the time,” Gaethje told ESPN. “I thought this was the most coveted title in the UFC when Khabib was around, and it turned into almost the laughingstock of the UFC overnight. When you have Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler fighting each other for the title, to be the best — those two weren’t best. It was me and [Dustin] Poirier. That should have happened.”
Gaethje: Holloway Probably My Favorite Fighter To Watch
In the end, Gaethje was left in limbo as he was struggling to land a fight.
His manager, Ali Abdelaziz, however, claimed in May that they asked for a “fun fight” with Max Holloway as a potential opponent for Gaethje. He went on to add that he was cussed out as a result.
But as far as Gaethje is concerned, a fight with the former featherweight king was certainly an option at the time.
“Max is probably my favorite fighter to watch so I honestly don’t want to fight the guy ever,” Gaethje said. “But I need to put myself in the title picture and if he jumps weight classes — I wasn’t sure if with Brian Ortega vs. [Alexander] Volkanovski being tied up with The Ultimate Fighter — I thought maybe he might want to come up to lightweight and try his hand, with Khabib being gone, at the lightweight title.
“That was an option at the time but didn’t work out.”
You can watch the full interview below: