Out of action since UFC 254 last October, former interim lightweight champion, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje appears to be the odd one out as the 155-pound division begins to take shape around him.
Dropping a second round lightweight championship unification loss to the retired, Khabib Nurmagomedov on ‘Fight Island’ in October, the Arizona native suffered a rather one-sided defeat, ultimately succumbing to a second frame triangle.
With the championship recently vacated by Nurmagomedov, surging submission specialist, Charles Oliveira is slated to headline UFC 262 on May 15th. in Houston, Texas — tackling former three-time Bellator lightweight titleholder, Michael Chandler for vacant lightweight gold.
Whilst previously maintaining that he wouldn’t be open to the possibility of competing for a championship off the back of his October submission loss to Nurmagomedov, he recently revealed that he was preparing to match with the #4 ranked Chandler at the May 15th. event, however, failed to obtain an official bout agreement from the promotion.
“I woke up yesterday to train for a matchup with (Michael) Chandler on May 15th. expecting a bout agreement any moment,” Gaethje posted on his official Twitter. “Today that is not the case. I don’t know what I do yet but I like this feeling. It was a good day at sparring practice.“
Removed from the reportedly targeted tie, Chandler now matches with Oliveira on May 15th. — with the aforenoted, Gaethje recently commenting on his period of inactivity, as he attempted to understand why he had yet to receive a bout agreement.
“Who knows, man?” Gaethje said during a recent interview with Full Reptile. “I can’t talk about it a lot right now. I’m sure me talking about it is the reason I’m here in the past. Who knows? Maybe I p*ssed someone off, I don’t know. All I know is since I was 12, 13-years-old, I listened to Dana White do his interviews and explain what he wanted in a fighter, and I’m that motherf*cker.“
“If I get disrespected, it’s gonna be hurtful because I really bought into what that man (White) talked about,” Gaethje said. “So yeah, it’ll hurt because I feel like I’m a company man from day one. I don’t ever want to go anywhere else, I don’t ever want to fight anywhere else. But my principles are the most important thing to me, so we’ll see what happens.“
With the above-mentioned matchup between Oliveira and Chandler sealed, the promotion is also currently working on a July 10th. landing pad for a potential title-eliminator rubber-match between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor.
Also at lightweight, Tony Ferguson, whom Gaethje bested to lift the interim title last May at UFC 249, is slated to make his Octagon return against Kings MMA standout, Beneil Dariush — who feature beneath Oliveira vs. Chandler. In terms of top-ten opponents remaining for Gaethje, former champion, Rafael dos Anjos is expected to be sidelined for a few months as he deals with an injury, with both Dan Hooker and Paul Felder the only remaining top-ten ranked contenders without a booking.