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It’s belt or bust for Justin Gaethje ahead of UFC Lincoln fight with James Vick

Coming off a two fight losing skid, Gaethje wants to show the world - and himself - he’s still championship material.

MMA: The Ultimate Fighter-Johnson vs Gaethje Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Gaethje is in a strange place with his career. On one hand, he’s at the height of his fame, with many UFC fans considering him one of the most entertaining fighters in the sport. On the other, his UFC record currently sits at 1-2 with two bad knockout losses in his last two fights. He’s now facing James Vick at UFC Lincoln on August 25th in what many consider a softball match up — relative to facing Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier back to back, anyway.

Gaethje previously said that he’d retire if he got outclassed by Vick. Now in a new interview with MMANYTT he’s clarifying that statement somewhat, saying he’ll retire if he feels he’s no longer UFC champion material.

“100-percent. When that’s not my goal, I will retire,” Gaethje said. “I want to be the best. I want to be the best in the world.”

As far as Gaethje is concerned, those two losses were valuable experience that will make him a better fighter down the road.

”Fighting on a UFC card, there is nothing like it,” he said. “Experience is a hell of a trait to have and now, with some experience under my belt, it will do a lot of things for me.”

And if James Vick wants to dismiss him because of his recent losses, he does so at his own peril.

“If you watch the fights, you have to understand how close either one of us were to getting the ‘W’ and finishing that fight,” Gaethje said. “For James Vick to sit here and say I’m a B-league fighter and I don’t deserve the accolades that I’m getting — the bonuses, the main events — they guy just doesn’t get it. I’m painting a pretty clear picture of what pure effort can achieve in this sport and if you don’t want to pay attention, that’s not my problem.”

Gaethje has talked a lot about the changes he’s making leading into this fight, and it certainly seems like Saturday in Nebraska could be a make or break moment for his career. Will we see a new and improved Gaethje 2.0? Or will he throw caution to the wind as usual once the leather starts flying? I’m not even sure which way I want it to go.

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