Justin Gaethje has always been a company man, willing to accept a fight on short notice at the drop of a hat, especially if it’s for a shot at becoming an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) title holder. That was the case when he let opportunity in after it knocked over a month ago, stepping in to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on April 18, 2020, in a little under two week’s notice after Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced out of the fight.
But, according to “The Highlight,” had the call been to face Nurmagomedov, he would have turned down the fight.
“I don’t think I would have taken the fight against Khabib on short notice,” Gaethje told BT Sport (via MMA Junkie). “Matchup-wise, I think I have a much better chance of touching Tony’s chin than Khabib’s, in the first two, three rounds. In order to get taken down once or twice by Khabib, and work up, and still be able to fight, I really do need at least 10 weeks. You know I’ve been training my whole life but there’s certain lactic acid that builds up that you really have to account for.
“No matter what, this is not perfect circumstances, but a fight is a fight,” he continued. “When it was on 14-day’s notice, that was much different than now, or 20-day’s notice. Now I’ve had five weeks to train, it’s not what I’ve asked for, or wanted, but I do believe that before this I was in better shape. … I didn’t let myself go. I was telling myself since the beginning of the year, I was gonna fight again and it was gonna be a big fight.”
Eventually, the original date of April 18 for UFC 249 was scrapped and was re-booked to go down this Saturday night (May 9, 2020) in Jacksonville, Florida. And while Gaethje admits he wasn’t too happy that UFC re-booked the title fight without telling him first under the assumption he would automatically say yes, at the end of the day, “Highlight” is still ready to throw down.
As for Khabib, he will be an interested observer from Russia, as he is expected to face the winner later this year (possibly in September) in a title unification match. Should it be against Ferguson, it will mark the sixth time the promotion will have tried to make this fight happen, a record that will likely never be broken.
Should Gaethje come out on top in “The Sunshine State,” he will have plenty of time to prepare for “The Eagle,” who has yet to taste defeat in his entire mixed martial arts (MMA) career at 28-0, 12-0 UFC.
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 249 fight card, starting with the ESPN+/Fight Pass “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN+/ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
To see the full UFC 249: “Ferguson vs. Gaethje” fight card click here.