Morning Report: Justin Gaethje: ‘When I beat Khabib and I beat Conor, what run in the history of the sport has been better?’

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Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

Earlier this month, Justin Gaethje stepped in on short notice and stopped Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. The win earned Gaethje the UFC interim lightweight title and set him up for a title unification bout against Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year. It also, according to Gaethje, did something even more important: it cut through corporate politics of fighting.

Before UFC 249, Gaethje was viewed as the odd man out in the lightweight division. Tony Ferguson was set to challenge Khabib for the title, and Dana White was transparently angling for Conor McGregor to get the next title fight, leaving Gaethje and his three-fight KO streak in the lurch. But Gaethje taking the short notice opportunity at UFC 249 upended all of that, and speaking with Joe Rogan recently, Gaethje said he hopes his journey to the title can serve as an inspiration to other fighters who feel like they aren’t getting their due.

“I’m in a great position because, for one I get to fight for a title,” Gaethje said. “There’s 500 some odd people on this roster, every single one of them would want to be in my position right now. But I also have the ability to bring some kind of rhyme or reason, a way, a way to a title shot. For young guys that come in, they think politics run the show. They ultimately do, but there is a small chance that you get a say in your destiny and eliminate politics. That what I just did. Politics were gonna f*ck me. I wasn’t going to get the fight. Conor was going to somehow or some way get that fight. Now, I got the chance to go out there and I did what I did.”

Prior to UFC 249, Gaethje had been adamant that he would not take short-notice fights. But when he was offered an interim title, perhaps his only chance to not get jumped by McGregor, he took it and made the most of it. Now, Gaethje is in the driver’s seat and he plans on building on his impressive win streak to produce one of the legendary runs in MMA.

“I do. I want to shut him up. I’d love that. I really would,” Gaethje said when asked if he’d like to fight Conor McGregor.

“I could fight him right now if I wanted to. Everyone is going to say that I’m lying, that if it was there I would take it. Daniel Cormier said that the other day. I’m not that fighter. For one, I have an opportunity to do something that can be unmatched in the history of our sport. To go in there, to come off the circumstances, to beat Tony like I did, go beat Khabib, go beat Conor, that’s legendary. . .

“When I beat Khabib and I beat Conor, what run in the history of the sport has been better? Coming off two losses, getting counted out. That’s what I’m here for. I can inspire the world.”

It certainly would be an impressive run. After making his UFC debut in 2017, Gaethje lost back-to-back fights against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier. The losses had many believing Gaethje was just a great action fighter but had hit his ceiling. Since then, Gaethje rattled off first-round KOs over James Vick, Edson Barboza, and Donald Cerrone, before stopping Ferguson at UFC 249. Given the quality of opposition, that streak alone is impressive but if he were to add Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Conor McGregor to it, Gaethje would have a strong claim at being the lightweight GOAT. Then after that, there’s only one more fight Gaethje says he would want before walking off into the sunset.

“Fight Poirier and then get the f*ck out of here,” Gaethje said. “That’s all I need. What do I need after that? That’d be legendary, I’d make plenty of money – which is ultimately what I’m here to do – and I took control of my destiny, which is all I asked for. Business wise, the smart move right now could be to fight Conor, because obviously that’s a lot of money, but I make way more money when I beat Khabib and then fight. And if Conor’s not there, I’ll fight Poirier. He’s not on my list. Khabib and Poirier are the two on my list right now. If I fight them two, with big paydays, then I’m good.”


MUST-READ STORIES

Capitalism. Dana White thanks John Oliver for ‘UF-Sea’ idea, but ‘I’m not giving you a cut’.

Shooter McGavin. Colby Covington: Jorge Masvidal, Dustin Poirier ‘are pieces of sh*t and the lowest scum of the Earth’.

Fun police. Dana White shoots down Kamaru Usman fighting Conor McGregor next.

Depression. Tyron Woodley: ‘I went into a state of depression’ following Kamaru Usman loss.

Odds. Anderson Silva opens as slight favorite to Conor McGregor after Twitter fight agreement.


VIDEO STEW

What the Heck with Cynthia Calvillo, Tim Elliott, Roosevelt Roberts, Anthony Martin, and Gabriel Green.

Free fights.

MacKenzie Dern on fighting after childbirth.

Henry Cejudo has found his new career path.


LISTEN UP

Believe You Me. Michael Bisping hosts Matt Sera and Jim Norton.


SOCIAL MEDIA BOUILLABAISSE

Jon coming out against Dana.

Chael being Chael.

It’s a fight.

Keeping the beef alive.

Carlos Condit. Easy game.

Gotta stay sharp.

Khabib knows.

View this post on Instagram

Stay ready

A post shared by Khabib Nurmagomedov (@khabib_nurmagomedov) on May 29, 2020 at 3:31am PDT


FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Jessica Andrade (20-7) vs. Rose Namajunas (8-4); UFC 251, July 11.


FINAL THOUGHTS

If Gaethje really only has three fights left, enjoy them while we all can. There may never be another guy like him in the sport.

Thanks for reading, enjoy the fights, and see y’all on Monday,


EXIT POLL


If you find something you’d like to see in the Morning Report, hit up @JedKMeshew on Twitter and let him know about it. Also follow MMAFighting on Instagram, add us on Snapchat at MMA-Fighting, and like us on Facebook.



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