Heading into a title fight, your opponent usually doesn't change three times, but that is something World Series of Fighting (WSOF) lightweight standout Justin Gaethje had to deal with. Gesias Cavalcante was up first, then Lewis Gonzalez and now Richard Patishnock will be the man standing in the way of the division title.
The Colorado fighter said it doesn't really matter who it is, since his training is always focused on himself and not his opponent.
"It's all the same, I will stick to my training camp," Gaethje told MMAmania.com. "It's one thing that I've always done, just focus on myself and not really worry. I like to see the pace, and if they are right handed or left handed. Those are the only two things I really like to know. I'll use the same game plan I have for the last two guys, and that's try to knock him out."
Some fighters may get angry and upset at the change of opponents. Not Gaethje. The undefeated fighter just takes from his experience as an amateur, where a lot of his fights were often scrapped or had opponents drop out at the last minute.
"These are things that I have experienced as an amateur. I'm not saying that they are ducking me by any means, but as an amateur I did have that, where guys would pick the fight and then look me up and drop the fight. That happened a lot. I learned then to not focus on my opponent and just focus on my own training camp and make sure I'm prepared. I believe if I'm 100-percent prepared, there is no one that can beat me at my weight."
The Team Grudge member said he is "really excited" to fight for the inaugural WSOF 155-pound title, and it's something that he has been "working his whole life towards." Things are happening fast for the 25-year-old fighter. His first fight for WSOF was in March of last year, and less than a year later, he fights for gold in his eleventh professional fight.
He admits there were some tough times coming up as an amateur, but now that he sees where he is and the opportunities that have come his way, he is motivated more than ever.
"It was tough at first, you start fighting as an amateur, you put the wins on the board and you don't really see much progression in your career," Gaethje said. "But now I'm seeing the progression and it's making me that much more hungry to continue to do what I'm doing. I love doing this, fighting for a living. It's very gratifying to see it paying off, paying off for my family, paying off for my fans, and everyone who supports me."
Also paying dividends for the lifelong wrestler is the work he's put in as far as his striking game is concerned, particularly his leg kicks. Gaethje won his second fight in WSOF over Brian Cobb by technical knockout from leg kicks, and put his newfound arsenal on display in his win over Dan Lauzon at WSOF 6.
Gaethje credits Grudge head coach Trevor Whitman and assistant coach Jake Ramos with the development of his leg striking prowess, and shares his philosophy on why he likes to attack those of his opponents.
"Anybody that's competed in pretty much any sport, the main thing that you have to have is your leg," Gaethje said. "If you don't have your legs, you are not going to be able to perform like you want to. You are not going to be able to drive off your legs, you're not going to be able to defend or get out of the way. There is nothing you can do with no legs," he continued.
"A strategy that has been with me is going after those legs right from the get go. If they want to wrestle, I'm a wrestler, that's where I came from, so I'm not scared for them to take a shot on me when I do kick. I think that's why I have been so successful is because I can really commit to my leg kicks and I don't have to worry about being defensive right after I throw a kick. I welcome them to shoot and then I'll end up on top and then we can go from there. I've just been working on that a lot."
The undefeated lightweight is focused on his next fight against Patishnock, but he has thought ahead at some of the benefits of being a champion.
"One great thing about being the champion," Gaethje says. "I don't think I need to pick anyone out. Whoever thinks they want to give it a shot to get that title and take it from me, then that is who I'm definitely going to want to fight."
Another WSOF lightweight who seems to be destined to clash with Gaethje at some point is Nick Newell. Born as a congenital amputee, Newell has created quite a buzz by continuing to rack up wins despite his deficiency. He won XFC lightweight title before coming over to the WSOF, where he has won both of his match-ups. Gaethje was asked about a potential matchup against Newell.
"I know Nick Newell is looking forward to that opportunity and I think he will get that opportunity soon," Gaethje said. "I'm looking forward to taking on all comers. I don't take anything away from him at all. He definitely deserves everything he's getting right now, all the hype."
The one element that the Colorado-based fighter has always possessed is aggression. He moves forward and is always willing to trade and mix it up. It's one of the main reasons for his rising popularity and why he is fighting for the WSOF title.
When you are undefeated, the pressure to win always becomes greater each and every time you fight. When you are an undefeated champion -- which Gaethje will become should he dispatch of Patishnock at WSOF 8 -- the stakes raise even more. Gaethje preached that he will never play it safe, or switch up his style to ensure more victories.
"I can promise you that you will never see that from me," he vowed. "I mean, I take pride in being undefeated, of course. The one thing is every fight I go in there, is to not lose. I do not want to lose. I wrestled my whole life, and I've lost many, many times, and it does suck. This is a different sport and I'm in a position where it's going to be hard to beat me right now."
"I love where I'm at, and I'm more hungry than I've ever been in wrestling or any other sport in my life. I'm looking forward to defending my record, honestly, with everything that I have. Just like any of us, we want to be considered the greatest ever and I have the opportunity, right now, I'm on a big platform, and I have this undefeated record. No one is going to take that from me, they're going to have to work their ass off to take that from me."