Justin Gaethje laments missed title fight with UFC rival Islam Makhachev: ‘I don’t know what’s going on’

Justin Gaethje

A fight with Max Holloway was not Justin Gaethje’s first choice for his return to the Octagon at UFC 300.

Earlier this month, UFC CEO Dana White revealed that ‘The Highlight’ would put his BMF title on the line against the former featherweight champion. The announcement came with a lot of fanfare, but it admittedly left Gaethje a little disappointed considering everyone, himself included, believed his next fight would be for lightweight gold.

“It’s always funny how it works out,” Gaethje said in an interview with Kevin Iole. “You always think it’s going to go one way, and you can never guess what’s going to happen with the UFC. Once the Oliveira and Tsarukyan fight got announced, I was really confident that I was going to get the Makhachev fight, because I figured, obviously, there is nobody else to fight him. … I don’t know what’s going on. Some injury or something, but he’s not going to fight till June or July, I guess.

“I was under the impression that if not for sure a title eliminator, that the fight with Dustin Poirier was as much a title eliminator as this Tsarukyan and Oliveira fight is. Now, me fighting on the same card as those guys, I’m going to be obviously above them, all four of us – you know, me, Max, Tsaruykan, Oliveira, we all got a chance to stand out” (h/t MMA Junkie).

Though he’s fighting someone outside of the lightweight division, a loss for Gaethje could potentially derail his claim as the next man in line for Islam Makhachev. But instead of looking at it as a negative, ‘The Highlight’ is embracing the opportunity to stand out among some of the best fighters on the planet and re-solidifying his status as the most deserving contender.

“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Gaethje continued. “I think it’s second-best obviously if they lined me up with Makhachev – that’s the best-case scenario. Second best scenario is I get to fight for it, and that’s the scenario I’m in. I get to go in there, I get to stand out. There’s going to be two contenders coming out that night. So, we’ll see what happens after that.”

Justin Gaethje Talked His Fight with Max Holloway ‘Into Existence’

Justin Gaethje has nothing, but respect for Max Holloway. It is for that reason that he never wanted to find himself in a position where he had to repeatedly punch ‘Blessed’ in the face. Unfortunately, the fight game can be cruel like that sometimes.

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Well, unless you’re Aljamain Sterling and Merab Dvalishvili. Then you just switch divisions.

“I kind of talked this into existence on accident,” Gaethje said. “I said, ‘I didn’t want to punch Max Holloway, but he’s also a guy that could fight for a BMF belt.’ That turns out into going to be having to punch Max Holloway. It’s the name of the game, and I am the best in the world at creating damage.

“The last two fights, I have been very tactical and very, very, very methodical in my approach. I think that obviously I’m going to continue to do that, and if I can do that, then it’s going to be very hard for Max to overwhelm me and put me in positions where I shouldn’t be.”