Justin Gaethje has something to prove in his return to the Octagon.
‘The Highlight’ heads to London for a co-main event showdown with rising lightweight contender Rafael Fiziev at UFC 286 on March 18. It’s been nearly a year since Gaethje suffered a first-round submission loss to then-lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. With it being his second failed attempt to capture UFC gold, Gaethje is eager to quiet his detractors and reward his supporters with a return to the win column.
Documenting his march to London in a video series on YouTube, Justin Gaethje briefly revealed that going into a fight after a loss is understandably difficult, but he’s determined to hush the haters that believe he’ll be nothing more than a gatekeeper for the division.
“Coming off a loss is always a little different to coming off a win, especially after a loss in a championship fight,” Gaethje said. “Lot to prove. There’s a lot of haters to shut up and a lot of believers to prove right. So it’s a fun ride, man, it’s been a fun ride since day one.”
With losses against both Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov in UFC title fights, it’s clear that Justin Gaethje’s Achilles heel is his wrestling. Fortunately, ‘The Highlight’ won’t have to worry much about that as his next opponent, Rafael Fiziev, has established himself as one of the division’s top strikers. Going 6-1 inside the Octagon, Fiziev has earned knockouts in 50% of those victories guaranteeing that fans will see fireworks when the two top lightweights square off in ‘The Big Smoke’ on March 18.
Debuting for the promotion in 2017, Justin Gaethje has gone 6-4 inside the Octagon. Prior to that, he earned 10 straight victories including an impressive run as the World Series of Fighting lightweight champion. He defended the title five times before signing with the UFC. In 2020, ‘The Highlight’ captured the UFC interim lightweight title, defeating Tony Ferguson at UFC 249. He came up short in a title unification bout with Khabib Nurmagomedov five months later.