Former UFC lightweight title challenger Justin Gaethje recently sat down with Mike Heck of MMA Fighting to talk about a multitude of subjects including the highly-anticipated lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 later this month.
The last time we saw Gaethje inside the Octagon was May 2020 at UFC 274. ‘The Highlight’ faced former lightweight champion Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira. Originally scheduled as a title defense for Oliveira, the Brazilian stepped on the scale exceeding the 155-pound weight limit. As a result, ‘Do Bronx’ was stripped of the title. The fight moved forward with only Justin Gaethje being eligible to win the title as he successfully made weight. Unfortunately, things did not go his way.
Gaethje was stopped in his second world title bid in the very first round via rear-naked choke. Now the fighter is sharing his thoughts on the UFC 280 main event featuring his last opponent and the streaking Dagestani monster, Islam Makhachev. Asked if he has a pick for the world title showdown, Gaethje appears to be backing Islam Makhachev but did not display total confidence in his prediction.
“I don’t. I don’t. It could be an amazing fight, but it could be extremely boring. Makhachev probably wins by decision, but Oliveira has been super impressive. I don’t know, I think whoever is hanging out on their back foot is going to lose. I don’t see Makhachev being on his back foot and Charles is going to make it a point to not be on his back foot, but can Makhachev put him there is the biggest factor.”
‘The Highlight’ also addressed the possibility of a showdown with Irish superstar Conor McGregor. As exciting as that fight would be, Gaethje doesn’t necessarily see it happening, claiming McGregor seems more interested in doing steroids than fighting a clean fight with a top 10 opponent.
“I mean, who knows? If everyone would just remember correctly, I fought Cowboy. I beat Cowboy and then he [McGregor] fought Cowboy right after that. I was primed, ready to go. Sounds to me like he’s off taking steroids right now. He hasn’t been drug tested by USADA in quite some time. I’m looking for a fair competition. If he’s on steroids, then give me steroids. Yeah, let’s go. I’m down with that, but my health is my biggest factor. I have never taken a performance-enhancing drug and I don’t want to fight people who are taking performance-enhancing drugs.”
Justin Gaethje Wants to Return When The UFC Heads Back to London
Out since May, Justin Gaethje has focused on healing, including getting a much-needed surgery to repair his nose. With 2022 coming to a close in the next few months, ‘The Highlight’ was asked about his anticipated return to the Octagon.
“I told them next year. Yeah, I told them next year. You know, I’m starting to work out now. I’m back in, you know, back in a regular routine, but yeah, I wanted… You know, one thing we have over other sports is that the body is resilient, but you have to give it time. I got hit really hard. I had a hard camp and yeah, I wanted to take a break. It was nice that I got to get my nose fixed.”
As for who ‘The Highlight’ would like to face upon his return to the Octagon, Gaethje didn’t have a specific name in mind but is open to fighting the winner and/or loser of the UFC’s two biggest lightweight contests scheduled to go down over the next six weeks.
“They got a fight for the title, someone’s gotta fight the loser. Chandler [and] Poirier are going to fight. Someone’s got to fight the winner. So yeah, I’ll be ready next year. Ideally January, February, [or] March. Whatever they want to do, but I’m not sure when Kamaru [Usman] is going to London, but I wouldn’t mind fighting in London.”