Justin Gaethje believes he is still very much in the lightweight title mix despite falling short in his attempt to unify the division against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 in October.

‘The Eagle’ needed just two rounds to choke out Gaethje. Post-fight Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from MMA, leaving the 155lb division in a state of flux. ‘The Highlight’ believes for all intents and purposes Nuramgomedov is done fighting and will not be convinced to come back despite persistent rumours that he will do so.

“I guess I think he’s retired from competing other than maybe his bid farewell,” Gaethje told The Schmo recently. “Like a GSP or something like that. But other than that I don’t think he’s competing for a championship anymore.”

Gaethje is still ranked at number one but realizes he probably needs to get back into the win column before challenging the winner of Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier II for the soon to be vacant lightweight strap.

“I’m number one so of course I want to fight for that f*cking belt, that’s why I’m here,” Gaethje said. “Poirier and McGregor are fighting soon so I want to fight the winner of that. I wholeheartedly believe you should be coming off a win to fight for a belt. So my job now is to get a win.”

“I want to fight for the belt and if it is the winner of that fight then I would, in turn, need to beat somebody first,” Gaethje added. “But, I’ll definitely just fight the winner for the belt, I’m down with that, too.”

Despite losing last time out Gaethje is staying positive and vowed to come back stronger than ever, he said.

“It’s a fun ride and it’s not over yet. It’s not over until we go crashing down. I’m having fun. Tough break last fight. It was an honor to fight against Khabib, it was f*cking heartbreaking to lose, but I’ve been here before and I came back strong and I’ll continue to do the same thing.” (Transcribed by MMA Fighting)

Do you think Justin Gaethje need a win before getting another shot at UFC gold?

A lifelong fight fan from Liverpool, England who has been covering mixed martial arts (MMA) and boxing for several years. Follow @JordanEllisUK on Twitter for all the latest fight news, views, interviews and live event coverage.