Despite the uncertainty surrounding Khabib Nurmagomedov’s fighting future the UFC’s lightweight division has never been more exciting. Khabib’s potential retirement might be lending a helpful hand in all of the recent intrigue, but it’s also the talent at the top of 155-pound class that makes 2021 so darn interesting.
Top-ranked contender Dustin Poirier just finished Conor McGregor at UFC 257 (highlights HERE). McGregor, who has returned to the division after a two-year absence, should be back this year and ready to regain his own dominance. Michael Chandler, who made a massive Octagon debut with a knockout win over Dan Hooker at UFC 257, is also in the mix moving forward. Not to mention the likes of Charles Oliveira and Tony Ferguson, who are two of the most exciting fighters in the division.
Then you have Justin Gaethje, who is the last man to fight Khabib inside of the Octagon. Gaethje lost to the current UFC lightweight champion via second-round submission back at UFC 254, but he remains a major player at 155 pounds. “Highlight” is hands down the most violent fighter in the division and a guy that really matches up well with anybody in the top five.
Gaethje, who called out both Poirier and McGregor after UFC 257, is open to a few different matchups moving forward. UFC president Dana White would like Gaethje to fight Oliveira next, but Gaethje is also looking into a potential clash with Nate Diaz, who was not mentioned above among the division’s top contenders but is easily one of the most popular names.
“I’ll take the fight (with Nate Diaz). Diego Sanchez got his last fight coming up, that’s for Conor McGregor though,” Gaethje told ESPN. “He wanted it last year, here’s your opportunity. That’s a great fight to make, get Diego someone money, he might whoop his ass because Conor is a b****h.
“They call me to fight Nate Diaz, I’m fighting Nate Diaz,” Gaethje continued. “I will roll him up and smoke him like a blunt. I could out smoke Nate Diaz any day of the week, I guarantee that. I’m not very proud of that but he thinks he is Mr. 420, I’ll roll him up and smoke him.”
Gaethje, who is currently the No. 2-ranked lightweight in the world, had won four straight at 155 pounds before his submission loss to Khabib last October. This includes knockout wins over Ferguson, Donald Cerrone, James Vick, and Edson Barboza. A bout with Diaz would be extremely marketable for the promotion and a matchup that would produce instant fireworks inside of the cage.
Earlier this month, White revealed that he’s in the process of booking Diaz’s lightweight return for 2021. It might take longer than expected to get something done considering Diaz and White don’t always see eye-to-eye during negotiations, but maybe Gaethje is the man to bring Diaz back to 155 pounds for the first time since 2015.
What say you, fight fans? Is Gaethje vs. Diaz the fight to make? Who wins?
Let’s hear it!