Yesterday evening it was announced Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje will square off for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249 on April 18.
‘El Cucuy’ was originally scheduled to face 155lb champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in the main event match-up. Due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis and subsequent travel bans around the world Nurmagomedov was forced to withdraw from the fight last week.
Since Nurmagomedov’s withdrawal, many have speculated Gaethje would be the man to step in at UFC 249. Last night UFC President Dana White made it official. Speaking to TMZ Sports Gaethje explained why he took the late notice fight against Ferguson despite finding the entire situation “terrifying”, he said.
“There’s never been this many unknowns, much less the unknowns that we’re dealing with right now,” Gaethje began. “It’s really a terrifying moment — and I’m talking about the competition side. I know what I’m facing. Tony’s been getting ready for Khabib Nurmagomedov, to fight for a world title, for the last three, four, five months. I don’t know how long. It doesn’t matter. But it’s perfect, because I always think they’re working harder, I think they’re better than me, I always think they’re luckier than me, but I love facing adversity. I’m facing my fears right now. That’s what we all need to do.
“I haven’t [ever taken a fight on such short-notice],” Gaethje added. “But I also haven’t been offered a UFC title and that’s the only thing I’m working for. That’s all I’ve been working for since the beginning, so I’m ready to gamble. There’s very few people on earth who would sign up for what me and Tony just signed up for — including most fighters. A lot of guys will say that they’re ready but will not put their name on that dotted line.”
Even if he does lose at UFC 249, Gaethje believes he’ll still be in the exact same spot and it was this that ultimately made him accept the bout.
They called me, my coach said ‘you don’t take late replacement fights,’” Gaethje continued. “I said ‘you’re right, let’s sleep on it.’ The next morning I said ‘if I lose, where are we at?’ For me it’s in the same exact spot I’m in right now.” (Transcribed by BJPenn.com)
Did Justin Gaethje make the right call filling in against Tony Ferguson on such late notice?