Former interim UFC lightweight champion, Justin Gaethje has claimed that promotional president, Dana White is to blame for the current state of affairs regarding the undisputed lightweight championship picture.
Failing to unify the lightweight championships against current undisputed best, Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 back in October last, Gaethje suffered a second-round submission loss via a taut triangle, with Nurmagomedov somewhat surprisingly announcing his decision to retire from professional mixed martial arts afterwards, with immediate effect.
Still billed as the promotion’s undisputed lightweight champion and still sat atop the promotion’s pound-for-pound rankings despite his decision to retire four months ago, Nurmagomedov met with White ahead of UFC 257 in January on ‘Fight Island’. And according to White, Nurmagomedov informed him that if either Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Dan Hooker, or Michael Chandler produced something special at the weekend’s pay-per-view event, he might consider returning.
Openly chatting to Nurmagomedov about the potential pay-per-view sales which could be seen from a rematch with arch-rival McGregor, those crystalline ideas from White’s were shot down when Poirier stopped McGregor with second-round strikes, more or less putting the kibosh on a rematch between the two foes for the time being.
After Poirier’s second-round knockout win, White spoke with media assembled after UFC 257 — where he detailed how he had spoken with Nurmagomedov but noted how things weren’t necessarily looking upward in regards to his return. Suggesting a vacant title matchup between Poirier and co-main event victor, Chandler, Poirier also shot down those plans, claiming if he’s fighting for a vacant title next, it should be opposite the #3 ranked, Charles Oliveira.
With the lightweight title picture still largely unclear, the UFC attempted to put together a three-round, non-title bout between Oliveira and Chandler for UFC 258 just ten days away, with the former rejecting the offer, citing his need to fight for a championship instead. According to the above mentioned, Gaethje — you’ll find the responsibility for this muddied title waters lies at the feet of White.
“The reason why this is happening with (Dustin) Poirier is because Dana White literally used, he tried to, he did, he f**ked Tony (Ferguson) and Dustin,” Gaethje said in a recent interview with MMA Junkie. “He said f**k you guys, I’m going to take (Michael) Chandler, and he’s going to be the backup for this title fight. That all happened three or four months ago. We are human, we have principles, we have morals, and that’s what that is. That’s why Dustin Poirier is saying (he won’t fight Chandler). Well, I would assume. I don’t talk to the guy.“
Gaethje is referring to the UFC’s decision to field Chandler as a potential backup for his lightweight title pairing with Nurmagomedov back at UFC 254 after they failed to come to terms with Poirier to meet with former interim champion, Tony Ferguson in the co-main event on the same card. The promotion then tried to pair Ferguson with newcomer, Chandler, with financial issues again proving a stumbling block from the matchup occurring.
“When Dana White did that, he didn’t just sh*t on Dustin Poirier, he didn’t just sh*t on Tony Ferguson. He sh*t on every single f**king fighter that does it right, that wants to do it right and wants integrity to the sport, and that’s why Dustin Poirier is talking like he is.“
“That’s the truth,” Gaethje said. “You remember how upset Tony and Dustin were whenever they didn’t put that fight together because there was probably $50,000 or $100,000 off one of their contracts, and they didn’t put the contract together. Those guys were ready to fight.“
While he can’t say for a fact that this is the reason Poirier won’t fight Chandler, Gaethje is hedging his bets that the Lafayette native is still upset with how the promotion handled his shelved fight with Ferguson.
“They put it in public, and that sh*t is not right,” Gaethje said.”I don’t like that as a fighter. I don’t like that being an employee. Well, I’m no f**king employee but being somebody that offers my services to a company. That’s not cool. You don’t want to see that. So I just know that’s why Dustin is saying what he’s saying, and that’s why he won’t fight Chandler for the title right now because they did that sh*t in October. I don’t know it, but I’m pretty sure.” (H/T MMA Fighting)