Ahead of his expected UFC 253 lightweight championship unification bout with Khabib ‘The Eagle’ Nurmagomedov in September, recently minted interim best, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje has offered his thoughts on a potential meeting with former two-weight world champion, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor in the future.
The Arizona native featured in the main event of UFC 249 in May on short-notice, capturing the interim title with a demolition of the then, twelve-fight undefeated, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson – before an eventual fifth-round knockout. Gaethje, extending his winning streak to four in the process, also setup a unification clash with fellow Ali Abdelaziz stablemate, Khabib.
Although the possibility of an interim title defence opposite the aforementioned McGregor reared its head during Khabib’s absence – the Team Elevation mainstay elected to wait for the undefeated Dagestani’s return, but failed to rule out an undisputed title defence against the Dubliner, in the future.
Speaking with ESPN MMA, Gaethje detailed how he would manage to evade and survive McGregor’s most pressing strikes for three-rounds, before grabbing a knockout stoppage in the championship rounds. While a dance partner for a second matchup of the year for the recently retired McGregor remains elusive, Gaethje has suggested he should just play the waiting game until UFC 253 is in the books.
“I think he (Conor McGregor) should wait for the winner of me and Khabib (Nurmagomedov)“, Gaethje explained. “If I win, I think he definitely comes back. If Khabib wins, I don’t know. I’m not sure about that. (McGregor’s) a legend, man. What he did was legendary status. I’ll never take that away from him. He deserves credit. He’s accomplished so much in this sport. What every fighter wants to attain, he accomplished, so hats off to him. I can’t wait to punch him in the face.“
If Gaethje’s ever presented the opportunity to lay offence to McGregor, he’s predicted that a knockout victory in his favour would follow – after three rounds.
“Distance control is the number-one factor in any fight,” Gaethje told. “It’s established in the first thirty-seconds. It’s not visible, but it’s established, and that would be a huge factor in our fight. Who can control the distance? I think the best thing about me is I can kick the sh*t out of people, so when they are trying to control distance or maybe they are winning at that, I can kick them in the leg and try to reset that. So, I think I would knock him out, to be honest. I think he’s got about three rounds, and then it’s hell, and he doesn’t want to go to hell, so I think he’s good for now.“