What’s Next For Justin Gaethje?
Justin Gaethje can’t go wrong with either of the options before him. The proverbial ‘McGregor Red Panty Night’ or a UFC title shot. Or both.
Justin Gaethje moves on to 21-2 with his first round finishes of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in Vancouver. When asked in his octagon interview about a potential match up against Conor McGregor, he maintained that the Irishman is retired and that it’s time for his title shot…after Tony Ferguson of course.
Gaethje is among the rest of the world in agreeing that Ferguson deserves the next shot at the Lightweight championship but insists that he is next line and wants the winner of Tony vs Khabib. In his post show interview Gaethje did admit he would be interested in fighting McGregor to punish him for his assault of an elderly man in Dublin, but his sights are set on the title.
It has been reported that McGregor-Gaethje had been agreed upon back in April until McGregor broke his hand. So completing a new bout agreement between the two seems possible, if not timely. McGregor (#3) must take another fight before being considered for a Khabib (C) rematch and while Gaethje (#4) has done enough to justify a number one contender spot after Tony, a big money fight for ‘The Highlight’ could be a welcomed payday on his way to his title shot. Gaethje has more bonuses than fights in the UFC, but he could be looking at an ever more lucrative detour on his route to Khabib. The momentum is there for a fresh 5 rounder with Gaethje , but rematch with Dustin Poirier is just as likely for McGregor.
With Khabib seemingly on an unstoppable path into the history books as an undefeated 30+ fight champion, most of the division just wants their name alongside him in the history books as an opponent. Khabib has already defeated his prospective opponents as they phrase their bout pitches with a desire not to defeat him, but merely compete against him in what always feels like an inevitable loss. They want to know how it feels to be under Khabib’s pressure.
However, we have seen an evolution of Justin Gaethje as a striker and overall fighter from his days in WSOF to the present, we have yet to see him use his wrestling. He could provide real problems for Khabib on the ground when the fight eventually gets there. Tony and Justin are the only two fighters left at that level that can seriously challenge Khabib. If Tony can’t get it done, Justin surely has an equal chance at success. But a more tantalizing prospect is a victorious Champion Tony Ferguson in his first title defense against Gaethje.
It will be fascinating to watch the Lightweight division as the dust settles in the first quarter of 2020. With the likes of Paul Felder, Gregor Gillespie & Dan Hooker moving their way up the rankings, they will be running into very dangerous veterans, many of which will be coming off a loss and even more determined. By the time they settle into the top 5, Khabib may be long retired and the division could be wide open again.
All speculation aside, Justin Gaethje can’t go wrong with either of the options before him. The proverbial ‘McGregor Red Panty Night’ or a UFC title shot. Or both.