Justin Gaethje made arguably the greatest UFC debut last night (Fri., July 7, 2017) at TUF 25 Finale live on FOX Sports 1 from Las Vegas, Nevada, when he smoked lightweight contender Michael Johnson in a Fight of the Year candidate. The former World Series of Fighting (WSOF) champion made UFC fans drool over his fighting style in less than 10 minutes, finishing “Menace” via second-round TKO after nearly getting knocked out himself.
As Gaethje walks away from his first UFC victory, the 28-year-old is ready and willing to do whatever it takes to get his shot at promotional gold.
“Whoever gets me closer to an interim title right now,” Gaethje said during TUF 25 Finale’s post-fight press conference (replay here). “(Conor) McGregor’s not here, so I’m going to get that interim title on my waist, then when he comes back: pressure. I pressure people. You think you can take it. He has a fantastic left hand. If he touches me with it, I’ll go to sleep. If not, you saw what will happen tonight. [Johnson] has never been finished (by knockout) before. I finished him in the second round.
“I got the biggest heart. I’m the most violent guy in this division. I’ll prove it time and time again. Every time, I’ve been ‘Fight of the Year.’ For now (this is it). I’ll fight again, that will be considered ‘Fight of the Year.’ I can take the most boring fighter and put him in that fight right there, so that’s what I do. I’m an entertainer.”
If you haven’t watched Gaethje’s highlight reel by this point you’re truly missing out. The former WSOF king fights like he did at TUF 25 Finale every single time he steps inside of the cage. A potential showdown with Conor McGregor would surely produce fireworks, whether or not “Notorious” is able to hand Gaethje the knockout loss he’s waiting for.
But Gaethje understands the logjam atop the UFC’s 155-pound division and is more than happy to get his hands on No. 1 contender Tony Ferguson in the interim.
“That’s what I want,” Gaethje said about landing “El Cucuy” his next time out. “Michael Johnson whooped his ass, so I will break him. Guaranteed. Call me a liar all you want.”
“I’m not infallible,” Gaethje added. “Never will be. I will lose, like I said. I’m not scared to get knocked out, I’m not scared to lose. I’m scared not to perform.
“It sounds dirty, but I’m a promoter’s wet dream. What else can you ask for? I literally go in there and put it on the line. I have no regrets. I’m not scared to lose. I’m an entertainer. That’s proven, because I got a performance (bonus) and knockout of the night. That’s what I’m in there for. I’m here to make money, make a living. This is my job now. I was so ready for this. Everyone says ‘Octagon jitters.’ That’s because they’re not ready. There’s no reason to rush this process. If you’re a young fighter out there, take your time. Wait until you’re ready. I was so comfortable in back. I was so comfortable this whole week.”
Forget about the jitters. Gaethje’s UFC debut was so remarkable that even McGregor chimed in via social media to pay tribute.
“It’s been pointed out to me that [McGregor] tweeted tonight about my fight,” Gaethje said. “Real recognize real. That dude’s a warrior, I’m a warrior. If I get the interim belt around my waist — I’ve only got to do that maybe one or two more times, and then, like I said, I’m not going to ask for the money fight; I’m going to be the money fight. You sound like a little b*tch when you ask for the money fight.
“I’m going to earn it, one at a time. I don’t care who’s next. I want to fight Ferguson, but he’ll probably say I’m not worthy. He lost to Michael Johnson. I just finished him. So he’ll be full of sh*t when he says that.”
If Gaethje is able to sustain this insane offensive output next time he steps inside of the Octagon it will only be a matter of time before “Highlight” is fighting for a UFC championship. And if TUF 25 Finale is any indication of what Gaethje can do to the upper echelon of fighters at 155 pounds, McGregor, Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and even Nate Diaz better prepare for war.
For more TUF 25 Finale results and coverage click here.