Justin Gaethje now controls his own destiny after taking out Tony Ferguson last weekend at UFC 249 to win the interim UFC lightweight title (highlights HERE). With the win, “Highlight” now clears a direct path to current 155-pound champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, who will be ready to unify the belts this summer on “Fight Island.”
Despite Gaethje’s next move already planned out, former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion Conor McGregor hasn’t stopped trying to lock down a fight with the interim champion this July. “Notorious” is hoping to cut the line, score a victory over Gaethje, and earn his rematch with Nurmagomedov later this year.
McGregor’s efforts included a profanity-laced Twitter rant following Gaethje’s career-best win over Ferguson at UFC 249. “Notorious” mentioned other fighters such as Khabib, Ferguson, and Dustin Poirier, but Gaethje seemed like the main focal point as McGregor tries to lure him into a fight.
Unfortunately for McGregor, Gaethje is not taking the bait. Instead, “Highlight” is holding out for his shot at handing Nurmagomedov his first professional loss. Gaethje also doesn’t want to give into McGregor and let him call his own shots, especially considering the UFC superstar has “lost his clout” among fellow fighters.
“He’s losing his clout,” Gaethje told ESPN. “I don’t mean with the general public, but with fighters, he’s losing so much respect in the game, which he probably doesn’t care. But to someone like me and even him, I would assume that matters a little bit. He doesn’t hold the cards right now. I put myself in a great position. I asked for a say in my destiny, and I showed up. Now I can pick between Khabib and Conor right now. If I wanted to fight Conor right now, I could. Believe me. Why wouldn’t [UFC president] Dana White put that together? But that’s not the fight I want.
“I have nothing to say to him. You don’t get to fight me next, unless there are crazy circumstances, where Khabib cannot fight. Then we’ll fight. That’s the only way. Other than that, you don’t get a say. Dana White laughed whenever they told him Conor said he was fighting me. He said, ‘No, Gaethje is fighting Khabib.’ You’re still worth all the money in the game, that’s true. But you’re losing clout when it comes to inside the game.”
McGregor, who captured his first Octagon win since 2016 this past January at UFC 246 when he defeated Donald Cerrone via 40-second TKO, is undoubtedly the most popular and polarizing name in combat sports today. But “Notorious” hasn’t been as active as many would like and it seems to be catching up to him.
Now while Gaethje is focused entirely on Khabib moving forward that doesn’t mean he’ll never fight McGregor. “Highlight” is more than happy to score a big payday opposite “Notorious” later this year, but he’s going to make McGregor wait.
“I’m here to make money,” Gaethje said. “When I beat Khabib, I will fight Conor because I’m trying to cash in. Whether he fights or not — do I think he should fight? Absolutely. But there are so many jokes you could make about his next fight. I don’t know who he’d fight. One of the main requirements is you have to be coming off a loss.”
With Nurmagomedov and Gaethje expected to meet later this summer and Ferguson about to take a mental leave of absence, McGregor doesn’t have too many options at his disposal. The Irish superstar could lobby for a superfight with welterweight contender Jorge Masvidal, but “Gamebred” is likely to meet Kamaru Usman next for the UFC’s 170-pound title. If that’s the case, McGregor will have to turn to a rematch with Poirier or a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz to keep himself busy.
What say you, Maniacs? If Gaethje is spoken for, who should McGregor fight next?