Justin Gaethje believes he only has two or three more years left of fighting at the highest possible level.

Gaethje, 34, will make his 12th walk to the Octagon this July for a long-awaited rematch with Dustin Poirier. The leather-slinging lightweights will headline UFC 291 with the BMF title up for grabs. More importantly, the winner will likely find themselves in line for one last opportunity to become a UFC world champion. With ‘The Highlight’ admittedly on the back end of his already iconic career, his summertime clash with ‘The Diamond’ could very well be a do-or-die situation.

In an interview with MMA Fighting, Justin Gaethje shared thoughts on the inevitable end of his run, including a tentative timeline.

“It’s just the fact of the matter that I would say, by 37, I would like to not be doing this anymore,” Justin Gaethje said. “I’m 34 now. Two or three years is a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that long. I’ve been doing this for 12 or [13] years, so ultimately it’s the back end of my career in this sport. That’s just the train of thought that I had.

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“We’re so emotional after these fights that I wouldn’t believe anything that we say for a week. It was just my thought process after. I’m not going to be here forever. I’m glad that you guys are here to enjoy this with me. I was really talking to the fans in that moment.”

Justin Gaethje Knows the Importance of Not Overstaying His Welcome

Since making his promotional debut in 2017, the former WSOF lightweight champion has become a fan favorite for his high-octane style of fighting that has earned him Fight of the Night honors on seven separate occasions. ‘The Hightlight’ has also bagged Performance of the Night bonuses four times and he was one-half of the 2017, 2018, and 2021 Fight of the Year. However, Justin Gaethje recognizes that he can’t keep up the pace he has come to be known for forever and has no intentions of overstaying his welcome.

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“I’ve been a huge fan of this sport. I’ve followed so many of the athletes and I’ve seen examples of people fighting too long, people quitting too early, people stopping at just the right moment,” Justin Gaethje explained. “I’d like to fall in that ‘just the right moment’ situation.

“I would say as soon as I believe I can’t be the best in the world with the skills that I possess, I don’t see any reason to go in there and risk what we’re risking each and every fight.”

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Despite his throw-caution-to-the-wind approach, Gaethje understands what the long-term effects of such a style could have on his health. Of course, ‘The Highlight’ will never actually allow those concerns to affect the way he handles business inside the Octagon. Yes, the risk is far greater, but he has made peace with that and will continue to do so until the day he takes off his gloves for the final time.

“I’m human,” Justin Gaethje said. “The older you get, the wiser you get. The wiser you get, the more you understand that nothing is for sure, tomorrow’s not promised. So yeah, you start to think about these things more, but ultimately I think that’s not a concern of mine.

“It doesn’t play a factor when I go in there. I’d like to be healthy, but I know the risk involved and I have to be content with the situation that I’ve put myself in. Once I’m able to be content there, I’m able to live a little bit more free, I guess.”

Craig Pekios is a freelance writer born and raised in Bettendorf, IA. Joining LowKick MMA in May 2022, Craig has more than 2,500 articles published that focus on the world of mixed martial arts and boxing, including news, event previews, results, analysis, and op-eds. Aside from working with LowKick MMA, Craig has contributed to news outlets Overtime Heroics, Sportskeeda, and MiddleEasy.